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(Premier12) U.S. pitcher of Korean descent happy to help S. Korean Olympic bid

All Headlines 16:26 November 15, 2019

By Yoo Jee-ho

TOKYO, Nov. 15 (Yonhap) -- American pitcher Noah Song played a pivotal role in a crucial victory in an Olympic baseball qualifying tournament here on Friday -- aiding South Korea's cause in the process.

And Song, born to a South Korean father and an American mother in California, said he was only glad to help.

Behind Song's one perfect inning of relief work, the U.S. defeated Chinese Taipei 3-2 in the Super Round of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 at Tokyo Dome on Friday.

In this AFP photo, Noah Song of the United States pitches against Chinese Taipei in the top of the eighth inning of the teams' Super Round game at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on Nov. 15, 2019. (Yonhap)

The tournament doubles as an Olympic qualifying event for Asia/Oceania and the Americas. Only the top teams from those regions will punch their tickets to Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Games. The loss by Chinese Taipei means South Korea can clinch its Olympic berth by beating Mexico later Friday at the dome.

Now that the U.S. helped South Korea by winning the first game of the day, Song said he hopes South Korea will do the same for the U.S. by beating Mexico.

"It's the whole, 'I will scratch your back, you scratch my back' thing," Song said with a smile. "We want them to have the best-case scenario for them and for us."

South Korea defeated the U.S. 5-1 to open the Super Round on Monday, but Song quipped, "We don't have any beef with Korea any more."

If Mexico loses to South Korea on Friday, the U.S. will still have a chance to play in the third-place game against Mexico on Sunday, with the winner representing the Americas at the Olympics.

Noah Song of the United States speaks to South Korean reporters after a 3-2 win over Chinese Taipei in the teams' Super Round game at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on Nov. 15, 2019. (Yonhap)

Song came on to start the top of the eighth inning, a half inning after Brent Rooker hit a go-ahead two-run home run. And Song didn't mess around, pumping fastballs by helpless hitters and touching 159 kilometers per hour (99 miles per hour) with his heaters. He recorded two strikeouts and finished the tournament with four shutout innings to his credit, with six strikeouts against one walk.

"It felt awesome. Following up that big home run like we did, there was a ton of electricity," he said. "I just didn't want to let the energy die."

Song had a stellar amateur career with the Navy. This year, Song was the finalist for both the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur baseball player in America and the Dick Howser Trophy as the best U.S. collegiate baseball player. Song led NCAA Division I baseball with 161 strikeouts in 2019 and graduated as the Navy's career leader in career wins, strikeouts and innings pitched.

As a Naval Academy graduate, Song will begin his two-year flight training soon after the Premier12. His service commitment is for five years, though he can petition to serve the final three years as a reservist so that he could pursue a professional baseball career. He was selected in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox at this year's draft.

Friday's outing may have been Song's final competitive appearance for the foreseeable future, if not ever. But Song said it was the furthest thing from his mind during this game and the tournament.

"It's not saddening because I've had it on my mind for quite some time," he said.

In this Penta Press file photo from Nov. 13, 2019, Noah Song of the United States pitches against Australia in the top of the seventh inning of the teams' Super Round game at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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