Left-hander Choi Ji-min, who was a must-win pitcher at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games, proved his worth once again.
South Korea’s baseball team, led by Ryu Jung-il, finished as runners-up for the second consecutive tournament after losing to Japan 3-4 in 10 extra innings in the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2023 final at the Tokyo Dome in Japan on April 19.
In the end, Korea faced the same result as in the qualifiers, but the process exceeded expectations. The Koreans were relentless in the final as they were in the preliminaries, and unlike the preliminaries, the game was not decided in regular innings. The game was tight throughout.
The pitchers stood out, especially Choi Ji-min, who threw a solid game every time she took the mound.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, with the score tied at 2-2, the fourth pitcher, Choi Ji-min, had runners on first and second. The third pitcher, Choi Jun-yong, walked leadoff hitter Maki Shugo, followed by a double by Sakakura Shogo and a single to right by Mannami Chusei, which set the Korean bench in motion.
Undaunted by the scoring situation, Choi Ji-min induced a swinging strikeout from the first batter, Makoto Kadawaki. The 147 km/h fastball was thrown particularly high, and Kadawaki’s bat spun without power. The bases were loaded with no outs and runners on second and third.
Choi Ji-min induced another left-hander, Teruaki Sato, to ground out to second base to end the inning. With that, South Korea closed out the eighth inning without a run and kept their hopes alive for the win.
Choi Ji-min was back on the mound in the bottom of the ninth. After a leadoff single to left field by Yuki Okabayashi, she struck out Kyota Fujiwara and then induced a grounder to shortstop by Kaito Kozuno to end the inning. A single run could have ended the game, but Choi shut down the Japanese lineup without allowing a single hit while facing five batters. The final line was 1⅔ innings of no-hit ball, no walks, and two strikeouts. 보스토토
“The best thing is that I was able to finish the tournament without getting hurt, and I was able to have fun and finish the last tournament of the year like this,” said Choi, who met with the media in the mix zone after the game. “It would have been better if I went back to Korea with the championship, but it’s a bit disappointing to finish second.”