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(LEAD) SK Wyverns hold off Nexen Heroes to reach baseball championships series

All Headlines 23:54 November 02, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS details, photos)
By Yoo Jee-ho

INCHEON, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- The SK Wyverns will play for the South Korean baseball championship for the first time in six years, after winning a wild elimination game in extra innings.

The Wyverns blew a 9-4 lead in the top of the ninth before belting out two solo shots in the bottom of the 10th inning for an 11-10 victory over the Nexen Heroes at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. The Wyverns took the best-of-five Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) playoff series in five games.

Han Dong-min of the SK Wyverns celebrates his walk-off solo home run against the Nexen Heroes in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 5 of the second round playoff series in the Korea Baseball Organization at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Nov. 2, 2018. The Wyverns won the game 11-10. (Yonhap)

With the Wyverns trailing 10-9 and down to final three outs, Kim Kang-min led off the bottom of the 10th with a solo blast to tie the game. Then Han Dong-min sent another solo shot over the center field for the victory.

Kim Kang-min was voted series MVP after batting .429 (9-for-21) with three homers and six RBIs in five games. He was 3-for-6 with two RBIs and three runs scored in the clinching game.

The Wyverns will go on to meet the Doosan Bears in the best-of-seven Korean Series, which starts Sunday at the Bears' home, Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.

Trey Hillman, the Wyverns' American manager, became the first foreign skipper to reach the Korean Series. Fellow American Jerry Royster was previously the only other foreign manager in KBO history, and he never got past the first round in three tries.

The Bears, which had the best regular season record, advanced directly to the Korean Series and will have home field advantage. They haven't played since their regular season finale on Oct. 14.

The Bears won it all in 2015 and 2016, and finished second in 2017. The Wyverns made six straight Korean Series, starting in 2007, and won championships in 2007, 2008 and 2010. For the first two of those three titles, the Wyverns defeated the Bears in the Korean Series.

Both starters, Kim Kwan-hyun for the Wyverns and Jake Brigham for the Heroes, were dealing early.

Brigham struck out the side in the first and no-hit the Wyverns until one out in the fifth. Kim allowed a base runner in four of the first five innings, but got out of each jam with strikeouts. He had eight Ks through five.

Kim walked Song Sung-mun to begin the sixth inning. And Seo Geon-chang, who'd hit a single and a double off Kim, laid down a perfect bunt for a single down the third base line.

A groundout moved the runners to second and third, setting the stage for Lim's heroics.

He had been 3-for-15 in four games before Friday, but broke the scoreless tie with a towering two-run double over the head of center fielder Kim Kang-min, who was playing shallow.

The hit chased Kim Kwang-hyun from the game. When the new pitcher Kim Tae-hoon threw a wild pitch that rolled all the way to the backstop, Lim sprinted home from second and just beat the tag at the plate with a head-first slide for a 3-0 Nexen lead.

SK Wyverns players celebrate their 11-10 victory over the Nexen Heroes in 10 innings in Game 5 of the second round playoff series in the Korea Baseball Organization at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Nov. 2, 2018. (Yonhap)

The Wyverns answered right away in the bottom sixth. After a leadoff single, Han Dong-min grounded one right at second baseman Kim Hye-seong for what looked certain to be a double play ball.

But Kim made a wild throw that sailed into left field, leaving runners at first and second.

Brigham struck out Choi Jeong for the first out, but he couldn't get past Romak, who turned on the first-pitch slider and rang it off the left-field foul pole for the game-tying three-run blast.

Brigham struck out the next batter but was lifted after a single by Kim Dong-yub. Han Hyun-hee, the Game 3 winner who relieved Brigham, walked the only two batters he faced to load the bases, and turned things over to An Woo-jin.

An, a 19-year-old rookie who had gone 3-0 with a 0.60 ERA this postseason, was pitching only two days after throwing 50 pitches, and it showed in his velocity and control.

Against pinch hitter Choi Hang -- younger brother of SK teammate Choi Jeong -- An hung a slider over the heart of the plate, and Choi drove it to right-center gap and cleared the bases. That put the Wyverns on top by 6-3, and they never relinquished their lead.

There was more pinch-hitting magic in the seventh, when Na Ju-hwan came off the bench and delivered an RBI single up the middle for a 7-3 lead.

The Heroes got a run back on Jerry Sands' groundout in the top eighth, only to see the Wyverns pile up two more runs in the bottom eighth.

With one out and man at first, Kim Kang-min made it 8-4 Wyverns with a double for his fifth RBI of the series. Two batters later, Choi Jeong's single brought Kim home to make it 9-4.

Choi Hang of the SK Wyverns hits a three-run double against the Nexen Heroes in the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 5 of the second round playoff series in the Korea Baseball Organization at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Nov. 2, 2018. The Wyverns won the game 11-10. (Yonhap)

The Heroes battled to the end. With two outs in the top ninth, Song Sung-mun lined a two-run double to cut the deficit to 9-6, and a throwing error by Kang Seung-ho allowed Song to score to make it 9-7.

That brought Park Byung-ho to the plate. And after going 1-for-17 in the series prior to Game 5 and 1-for-4 Friday, Park launched a two-run shot to right field to tie the score at 9-9.

The Wyverns had two men aboard with one out in the bottom ninth, but Shin Jae-young, Nexen's seventh pitcher, struck out the next two batters to send the game to extra innings.

And the Heroes went ahead for the final time in the top of the 10th. Kim Min-sung followed Lim Byeong-wuk's leadoff double with a two-bagger of his own to make it 10-9 Heroes.

But it only set the stage for even more improbable drama. Kim Kang-min opened the inning with a game-tying solo home run off Shin. And before the right-hander could figure out what hit him, Han Dong-min touched him for the walk-off solo homer to straightaway center, sending the remaining SK fans into a frenzy and ending the five-hour marathon.


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