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(LEAD) (Premier12) Bottom third of lineup leads S. Korean offense vs. Australia

All Headlines 22:34 November 06, 2019

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By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 6 (Yonhap) -- Kim Hyun-soo is a former batting champion in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) who has led the league in hits twice. Min Byung-hun is an All-Star with a .301 lifetime batting average. Hur Kyoung-min is just a year removed from batting .324.

In other words, you wouldn't typically find these hitters at the bottom of lineups.

Kim Hyun-soo of South Korea celebrates his RBI single against Australia in the bottom of the second inning of the teams' Group C game at the Premier12 at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Nov. 6, 2019. (Yonhap)

But on the South Korean national team, someone has to hit seventh, eighth and ninth. So it was that Kim, Min and Hur took the bottom three spots against Australia in their first Group C game at the Premier12 on Wednesday.

And those three knocked in three runs in a 5-0 victory at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.

Kim, the national team captain, drove in the game's first run with a single in the bottom second. And Min followed up with a double off the left field fence for a quick 2-0 lead.

With South Korea up 3-0 in the sixth, Hur joined the party with an RBI single of his own.

Kim was the MVP of the inaugural Premier12 in 2015, when he batted .344 with 13 RBIs and five extra-base hits in eight games for the title-winning South Korea. He owns a stellar international resume, which features an Olympic gold from 2008 and three straight Asian Games gold medals in 2010, 2014 and 2018. He carried a .359 international batting average into Wednesday's game and went 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored.

Min Byung-hun of South Korea heads to first base after hitting a ground ball against Australia in the bottom of the fourth inning of the teams' Group C game at the Premier12 at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Nov. 6, 2019. (Yonhap)

Min homered against Puerto Rico in a tuneup game last Saturday out of the No. 9 spot and came within meters of going deep again on Wednesday. His combination of contact ability and gap power makes him an ideal bottom-of-the-order hitter who can be a bridge to the top of the lineup.

Hur only got into Wednesday's starting lineup as the third baseman because of an injury to the veteran Choi Jeong, who came away from Monday's practice with some left leg trouble. Though the injury was minor and Choi was available to pinch hit, Hur made sure Choi wouldn't be needed at the plate by going 2-for-3.

As the icing on the cake, Hur made a fine grab on a hard grounder by Logan Wade for the second out in the eighth inning.

In the top third of the lineup, No. 3 hitter Lee Jung-hoo had two doubles and drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth to cap off his productive day.

But South Korea got nothing from its mashers, as cleanup Park Byung-ho went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, and No. 5 hitter Kim Jae-hwan was 0-for-1 with two walks.

South Korean manager Kim Kyung-moon said he liked what he saw from his No. 7, 8 and 9 hitters but added, "I don't think we really need to categorize them as the bottom third of the lineup on this team. They're all great hitters."

As for Park's futile evening at the plate, Kim said, "We had production from other hitters, and I believe Park is going to bounce back tomorrow (against Canada)."

Kim said Lee battled some back pains during the KBO postseason last month, and marveled at the 21-year-old hitter's bat-to-ball skills in pressure situations.

But Lee himself tried to keep his excitement in check, saying, "Winning the first game is always important, but we're going to push this game aside and try to get ready for tomorrow."

Hur Kyoung-min of South Korea celebrates his RBI single against Australia in the bottom of the sixth inning of the teams' Group C game at the Premier12 at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Nov. 6, 2019. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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