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KBO veteran turns back clock in bid for 2nd career batting title

All News 14:38 October 29, 2020

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 29 (Yonhap) -- A veteran hitter has emerged as a threat to win the batting title and spoil a Triple Crown bid in South Korean baseball this season.

Through Wednesday's action, Choi Hyoung-woo of the Kia Tigers is leading the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) with a .353 batting average. He went 3-for-4 in Wednesday's game against the KT Wiz.

Choi Hyoung-woo of the Kia Tigers tosses his bat after hitting a two-run home run against the KT Wiz during the bottom of the first inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 28, 2020. (Yonhap)

In the same game, Mel Rojas Jr. of the Wiz went 0-for-4, which dropped his batting average from .353 to .350. He's in second place in the batting race behind Choi.

With two games left this season for the Wiz, Rojas Jr. has all but locked up the home run and RBI titles. With 47 dingers, he leads Roberto Ramos of the LG Twins by nine. And 134 RBIs put Rojas Jr. 11 ahead of NC Dinos catcher Yang Eui-ji.

A batting title would make Rojas Jr. the first batting Triple Crown winner in the KBO in 10 years and the first foreign player to pull that off, and it will be the toughest of the three categories for him to win.

Son Ah-seop of the Lotte Giants, batting .349, is also within striking distance.

Rojas Jr. and Son will finish their season Friday. But Choi and the Tigers have one more game on Saturday, a makeup game against the NC Dinos.

The Dinos have already clinched first place, and the Tigers were eliminated from postseason contention last week. That game will have no bearing on the standings, but all statistics will still count.

Mel Rojas Jr. of the KT Wiz celebrates his two-run home run against the Kia Tigers during the top of the first inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 28, 2020. (Yonhap)

Choi, who turns 37 in December, is chasing his second career batting title. He captured his first in 2016, while playing for the Samsung Lions, with a .376 average.

This year, he's riding a second-half surge. He was batting .333 at the end of August to rank sixth. Since then, Choi has been batting .388 to lead all players.

Rojas Jr. is hitting .400 in October, while Choi is at .396 for the month.

Choi is also in position to top the KBO in on-base percentage. Through Wednesday, Park Sok-min of the NC Dinos was leading the way at .436 clip. He hasn't played since Oct. 15 while nursing a hand injury. Choi is right behind him at .432.

Choi has posted an on-base percentage of at least .400 in every season since 2014. He has a .407 mark for his career.

In this file photo from Oct. 15, 2020, Park Sok-min of the NC Dinos hits a two-run single against the Kia Tigers during the bottom of the sixth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Changwon NC Park in Changwon, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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