S. Korea beats Cuba to set up Premier 12 semifinals showdown against Japan

November 16, 2015
Minnesota Twins-bound Park Byung-ho hits a triple in the second inning. (Yonhap)

Minnesota Twins-bound Park Byung-ho hits a triple in the second inning. (Yonhap)

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (Yonhap) — South Korea defeated Cuba 7-2 to reach the semifinals of the Premier 12 baseball tournament on Monday, setting up a rematch against the archrival Japan in Tokyo.

South Korea did most of its damage in the bottom of the second, scoring five runs on six hits at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung, some 130 kilometers south of Taipei. After Cuba scored twice in the bottom fifth, Yang Eui-ji hit a solo home run and Kim Hyun-soo came through with an RBI single for insurance runs in the top eighth.

South Korea will meet Japan at Tokyo Dome on Thursday. Japan shut out South Korea 5-0 in the tournament opener on Nov. 8 at Sapporo Dome. Japan was a perfect 5-0 in Group B play and defeated Venezuela 9-3 in the quarterfinals Monday.

The United States and Mexico will meet in the other semifinals contest on Friday, also at Tokyo Dome.

The third-place game and the final will both be played at Tokyo Dome on Saturday.

South Korea batted around and tagged on five runs in the second inning. Park Byung-ho hit a triple off the left-center wall to start the rally, and Min Byung-hun drove him home for the game’s first run with a single up the middle.

Two more base hits followed, the latter of which was an RBI hit by Yang Eui-ji.

After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, Jeong Keun-woo slashed a two-run single to right, putting South Korea up 4-0.

With men at first and second, Lee Dae-ho hit a single to center for a 5-0 lead.

Amid the South Korean onslaught, Cuban manager Victor Mesa was forced to make three pitching changes in the second inning alone, taking out starter Frank Montieth after he failed to retire a batter in the frame.

Cuba got a pair of runs back in the bottom fifth. South Korean starter Jang Won-jun gave up a single and a walk to start the inning, and Estayle Hernandez cashed in a run with a single to right.

With two on and two outs in the same inning, Yuniesky Gurriel also singled to right to cut the deficit to 5-2.

After the big second inning, South Korean bats suddenly went cold with reliever Miguel Mahera on the mound.

The first three Cuban pitchers lasted just 1 2/3 innings, but Mahera kept Cuba in the game by holding South Korea scoreless over 4 2/3 innings.

After the right-hander left the mound, South Korea restored its five-run advantage in the eighth.

With one out in the inning, Yang Eui-ji took Jonder Martinez over the left field for a solo shot, his first homer of the tournament that put South Korea up 6-2.

Yoalkis Cruz came on and promptly put two men on with a single and a walk. He gave way to Yoennis Yera, who conceded a two-out RBI single to Kim Hyun-soo, making it 7-2 South Korea.

South Korean starter Jang cruised along through four, holding the opponents to just two hits, before allowing Cuba to get back into the game in the fifth.

He was charged with two earned runs over 4 2/3 innings in the no-decision. Right-hander Lim Chang-min was credited with the win thanks to one scoreless inning out of the pen.

Cuba used nine pitchers, who gave up 13 hits and struck out only three batters. Montieth took the loss.