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(LEAD) (Premier12) S. Korea defeats Canada for 2nd straight win

All Headlines 23:14 November 07, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS details at bottom)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea squeezed past Canada 3-1 on Thursday for its second straight win at the Premier12, taking a huge step forward in its road to the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Starter Kim Kwang-hyun pitched six shutout innings and slugger Kim Jae-hwan knocked in two runs at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, as South Korea moved into first place in Group C.

The Premier12 is also an Olympic qualifying tournament for the Americas and Asia/Oceania regions. The top two teams from each of the three groups will advance to the Super Round, which begins next week in Japan.

To qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, South Korea must first reach the Super Round and also finish ahead of Australia and Chinese Taipei in the final standings.

Kim Kwang-hyun of South Korea pitches against Canada in the bottom of the first inning of the teams' Group C game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Nov. 7, 2019. (Yonhap)

Thursday's game had the makings of a classic pitching duel between two left-handers.

For South Korea, Kim Kwang-hyun, one of the top starters in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), struck out five of the first six batters he faced and no-hit Canada through four innings.

His counterpart, Los Angeles Dodgers minor leaguer Rob Zastryzny, matched Kim pitch for pitch. Zastryzny held South Korea to two singles through five frames with six strikeouts.

Jordan Lennerton broke Kim's no-hitter bid with a single to open the bottom fifth, but Kim got three quick outs to shake off that hit.

And South Korea broke the deadlock in the top sixth, after finally creating some traffic on the base paths against Zastryzny.

Min Byung-hun hit a one-out single and stole second. Then Kim Ha-seong worked an eight-pitch work against Zastryzny, who was pulled after that free pass.

Reliever Chris Leroux retired the next batter, but walked Park Byung-ho to load the bases.

That set the stage for Kim Jae-hwan, the 2018 KBO regular season MVP, who plated two runs with a sharp single to right.

Kim Jae-hwan of South Korea celebrates his two-run single against Canada in the top of the sixth inning of the teams' Group C game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Nov. 7, 2019. (Yonhap)

Kim Kwang-hyun tossed another scoreless inning in the sixth and handed the reins to the bullpen.

Reliever Cha Woo-chan pitched himself into trouble with consecutive two-out walks in the seventh, but struck out pinch hitter Demi Orimoloye on three pitches to clean up his own mess.

Canada cut the deficit in half in the bottom eighth against reliever Ham Deok-ju. Dalton Pompey reached with a one-out single and came all the way home on Wesley Darvill's double to the right field corner.

With the heart of the order coming up, South Korean manager Kim Kyung-moon summoned right-hander Cho Sang-woo out of the bullpen.

The big righty then doused the fire with his heat, getting Eric Wood and Michael Saunders to go down swinging on his signature fastballs.

After dodging that bullet in the bottom eighth, South Korea scored one to restore its two-run lead.

With one out against Dustin Molleken, Kim Hyun-soo and Hur Kyoung-min hit a double and a single to get to the corners. Two batters later, Park Min-woo lined a single to right field to make it 3-1.

Cho returned the mound for the ninth and retired the side in order to slam the door shut on Canada.

South Korea will close out Group C action against Cuba on Friday, and will have submarine pitcher Park Jong-hoon start the game.

South Korea will reach the Super Round with a win and join Mexico, the United States, Japan and Chinese Taipei there.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
(END)

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