The Korea U-18 National Baseball Team secured a spot in the Super Round with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Mexico.
The Korea U-18 Baseball Team, led by Lee Young-bok (Chungam-Go)토스카지노, earned a 2-1 victory over Mexico in the fourth game of Group A of the preliminary round of the 2023 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup in Taichung, Taiwan on Friday (May 5).
Korea dropped its first game against Chinese Taipei, but rebounded with three straight wins over the Czech Republic, Australia and Mexico to go 3-1 and secure third place in Group A and advance to the Super Round regardless of the outcome of the remaining games.
Against Mexico, Korea’s starting lineup was Lee Chung-heon (Chungam High School, center fielder), Jung Ahn-seok (Humun High School, second baseman), Yeo Dong-gun (Seoul High School, first baseman), Park Ji-hwan (Se AD, shortstop), Lee Seung-min (Humun High School, left fielder), Cho Hyun-min (Chungam High School, third baseman), Lee Yul-ye (Gangneung High School, catcher), Lee Sang-joon (Gyeonggi High School, designated hitter), and Yeon Jun-won (Busan High School, right fielder). Jeon Mir (Gyeongbuk High) was the starting pitcher.
In the top of the first inning, Korea struck first against Mexico’s Cruz Guajardo, with Lee Chung-heon leading off with a double and advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jung Ahn-seok, but failed to score as Yeo Dong-gun struck out and Park Ji-hwan fouled out.
After Korea’s missed opportunity, Mexico took the lead in the top of the second inning. Leadoff hitter Macias Baez singled to left field against Jeon Mir, but No. 6 hitter Ramirez Rodriguez followed with a single to right. He then stole second and advanced to third on Alvaro Juan’s fly ball to right field. He came home on an error by third baseman Hyun Min Choi, who had walked Nieblas Casillas.
South Korea pulled Jeon Mir after the run and replaced him with Hwang Jun-seo (Jang Chung-go), who got Contreras Valdez to fly out to left field to end the inning.
Korea didn’t have another chance until the fourth inning. In the bottom of the inning, Lee Seung-min grounded out to the pitcher, Cho Hyun-min fouled out to the catcher, and Lee Yul-ye struck out to end the inning. In the bottom of the third, Lee Sang-jun and Jeon Jun-won were retired on grounders, and Lee Chung-heon was stranded on a fly ball.
In the bottom of the fourth, Jung An-seok singled to center and Yeo Dong-gun grounded out to shortstop, then Park Ji-hwan singled to center and stole second base, but Lee Seung-min hit a grounder to short.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the fifth inning that Korea scored its first run. Cho Hyun-min led off with a single to right and Lee Yul-ye reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners on first and third. After the Mexican pitcher was replaced by Alvarez Rios, Kim Tae-hyun bunted, but Cho Hyun-min stole the base once again to reach third, and Yeon Jun-won singled to left, scoring Cho Hyun-min and tying the game at 1-1. In the next at-bat, Lee Chung-heon struck out and Jung Ahn-seok grounded out to end the threat.
However, in the bottom of the sixth inning, they scored one more run to take the lead. Yeo Dong-gun led off with a walk and Park Ji-hwan singled to left field, but Lee Seung-min singled to right to put runners on first and third, and Cho Hyun-min’s squeeze bunt brought in Yeo Dong-gun to make it 2-1. Hwang Jun-seo closed out the top of the seventh to secure the win.
After Jeon Mir gave up one run (unearned) on two hits and one walk in 1⅔ innings, Hwang Jun-seo pitched the remaining 5⅓ innings with one hit and six strikeouts to earn the win. At the plate, Cho Hyun-min had two hits, one RBI and one run scored, while Yeon Jun-won had one hit and one RBI.
With the win over Mexico, South Korea clinched a spot in the Super Round and will travel to Taipei on Saturday for the final game of the preliminary round against Puerto Rico, which was postponed due to rain.
The top three teams in Group A and Group B will play a super round-robin pool, with the combined results determining the finalists and the third- and fourth-place finishers. In Group B, Japan (4 wins), the Netherlands (3-1) and the United States (3-1) have already qualified for the Super Round regardless of their remaining games, and the final standings in Group B will be decided on June 6.