S. Korea falls to US 3-2, to face Cuba in Premier 12 quarterfinals

November 15, 2015
S. Korean OF Kim Hyun-soo, rumored to be on his way to the Major League, reacts to being called out on strikes. (Yonhap)

S. Korean OF Kim Hyun-soo, rumored to be on his way to the Major League, reacts to being called out on strikes. (Yonhap)

TAIPEI (Yonhap) — South Korea fell to the United States 3-2 in extra innings to finish third in Group B at the Premier 12 baseball tournament on Sunday, setting up a quarterfinals match against Cuba.

Bret Eibner delivered a go-ahead single for the Americans in the top of the 10th at Tianmu Baseball Stadium in Taipei to snap South Korea’s winning streak at three.

Japan won Group B with a 5-0 record. Both South Korea and the United States ended the group stage at 3-2, but the United States got the second seed by prevailing in their head-to-head meeting.

South Korea, which had already clinched a quarterfinals berth Saturday, will face Cuba, No. 2 seed from Group A, in the quarters at 6:30 p.m. Monday, back at Tianmu.

Cuba finished Group A play at 3-2, after beating the Netherlands, Puerto Rico and Italy, but losing to Canada and Chinese Taipei.

South Korea and Cuba played two exhibition games in Seoul on Nov. 4 and 5. South Korea won the first game 6-0 and lost the next one 3-1.

The United States broke the scoreless deadlock with a pair of runs in the top fifth. South Korean starter Kim Kwang-hyun was perfect through three and worked out of a minor jam in the fourth, before the Americans finally got to him in the fifth.

Matt McBride doubled to start the inning and Joe Scalafani drew a walk. Tyler Pastornicky then drove in the game’s first run with a single to center. And Dan Rohlfing followed up with a towering double to deep right field to put the United States ahead 2-0.

Kim was lifted after walking Jacob May to load the bases. Right-hander Cho Sang-woo came on and doused the fire, striking out Adam Frazier and Bret Eibner to end the long inning.

In the sixth, Cho gave up a walk and a single before handing things over to southpaw Jung Woo-ram. Jung promptly walked Scalafani to load the bases, but retired the next three batters to get out of trouble.

With the bullpen keeping the team in the game, South Korean hitters — held to three singles by starter Zeke Spruill over six innings — finally broke through in the bottom seventh against the wild U.S. reliever John Church.

The right-hander walked the first two batters of the inning. After a sac bunt, Min Byung-hun bounced one up the middle to bringing in both runners and tie the game at 2-2.

Each team had a chance to score in the ninth. In the top half, the United States stranded a man at second with one out, as Elliot Soto went down swinging and Jacob May flied out to center.

South Korea loaded the bases with one out in the bottom ninth after a walk and a pair of singles off Seth Simmons. Pinch hitter Na Sung-bum, though, hit a soft liner to short, and Jeong Keun-woo hit a chopper to third baseman Pastornicky, who threw to second for the force.

Under the quirky extra-inning rules, each side was allowed to put two consecutive batters from anywhere in the lineup to start the 10th on first and second.

For the Americans, Adam Frazier tried to lay down a bunt to move the runners over, but South Korean pitcher Woo Kyu-min fielded it on a short hop and threw to third to start what appeared to be a back-breaking double play.

With Eibner, who’d struck out four times in four at-bats, at the plate, Frazier stole second, though replays showed he slid into the glove of second baseman Jeong Keun-woo’s glove before hitting the bag.

Given a new life, Eibner knocked one through the hole on the right to bring home Frazier for a 3-2 U.S. lead.

South Korea failed to cash in on its two men in the bottom 10th. No. 2 hitter Lee Yong-kyu failed to get down a bunt and flied out to left, and Kim Hyun-soo hit a pop-up to shortstop.

Cleanup Park Byung-ho drew a walk to load the bases, only to see Kang Min-ho hit a roller to first for the game’s final out.

Losing manager Kim In-sik rued the controversial call on Frazier’s steal in the 10th inning.

“It’s disappointing, but umpiring mistakes are part of the game,” Kim said. “But I think we need to start reviewing plays in international tournaments.”

Kim will send left-hander Jang Won-jun to face Cuba on Monday. Jang held the Dominican Republic to a run in seven solid innings in South Korea’s 10-1 on Wednesday. He also threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings in the second exhibition game against Cuba earlier this month.

“This should be a good game, since we played each other twice recently and we know each other well,” Kim said.

Neither starter factored into the decision on Sunday. For South Korea, Kim Kwang-hyun retired the first nine batters he faced but came apart in the fifth. He was charged with two earned runs on four hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings.

After Kim left the game, four relief pitchers kept the Americans off the board and struck out eight over 4 2/3 frames. Woo took the loss after allowing the go-ahead hit to Eibner in the 10th.

Spruill pitched six shutout innings, allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out seven. His bullpen cost him the win, and Seth Simmons was credited with the victory in relief.