S. Korea prevails in final scrimmage at home before WBC

March 3, 2023

South Korea won its final scrimmage at home Friday before the start of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) next week, with a few pitchers displaying concerning command issues.

Managed by Lee Kang-chul, the national team defeated the minor league affiliate of the SSG Landers in the Korea Baseball Organization 10-2 at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.

Starter Ko Young-pyo worked three shutout innings, and outfielder Park Kun-woo, considered a backup for the tournament, drove in four runs with a home run and two doubles.

This was the final practice game for South Korea before its trip to Japan for the big tournament. The team will fly to Osaka on Saturday to prepare for two official exhibitions against Japanese clubs: the Orix Buffaloes on Monday and the Hanshin Tigers on Tuesday.

South Korea’s first Pool B game is Thursday against Australia at Tokyo Dome.

The national team’s only two major leaguers, Kim Ha-seong of the San Diego Padres and Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals, were not eligible for Friday’s game, which was an informal scrimmage not sanctioned by the WBC. They will be available against the Buffaloes and the Tigers.


Kim and Edman took live batting practice earlier Friday instead, and the two pitchers on the mound for that session, Koo Chang-mo and Won Tae-in, didn’t come out for the scrimmage after tossing 35 and 37 pitches, respectively.

And with manager Lee wanting to see all remaining pitchers in game action, the national team pitching staff was split into two.

Six out of the remaining 13 pitchers toed the rubber for the national team, including Ko, the likely starter against Australia for South Korea’s first game next Thursday.

The seven other pitchers took the mound for the Landers, including veteran left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun.

From the position player side, outfielder Choi Ji-hoon and catcher Lee Ji-young played on the Landers side.

Third baseman Choi Jeong was held out of the game, because he was under the weather. With no other third baseman available — Kim Ha-seong and Edman can play third if needed during the WBC — right fielder Park Kun-woo ended up manning the hot corner in this game.

The national team put 10 batters into its starting lineup and used two designated hitters.

South Korea opened the scoring in the bottom of the second, thanks to Yang Eui-ji’s RBI single. The national team doubled its lead in the third, as Oh Ji-hwan’s double in a well-executed hit-and-run play scored Kim Hye-seong from first.

The Landers got a run back in the top fifth on a double play ball, with shortstop Oh Ji-hwan flashing the leather on a hard short-hopper to start the twin killing and limit the damage.

South Korea went up 4-1 in the bottom fifth, when Park Kun-woo delivered a towering RBI double off the top of the right field fence, and Oh followed up with a single for his second RBI of the game.

In the top sixth, the Landers cut the deficit to 4-2 with an RBI groundout, only to see South Korea come right back with a run in the bottom sixth.

Park Kun-woo homered for South Korea in the seventh to open up a 6-2 lead.

Though South Korea led after the top ninth, it elected to play the bottom half of that inning, so that one final pitcher, Kim Won-jung, could get his work. Park touched the reliever for a two-run double for an 8-2 advantage.

Kim committed a throwing error after fielding a bunt to let in another South Korean run.

Oh Ji-hwan’s single rounded out the scoring at 10-2.

National team pitchers after Ko didn’t look sharp. Yang Hyeon-jong allowed three hits and a few other hard-hit balls, and another left-hander Kim Yun-sik struggled to find the strike zone. Lefty Lee Eui-lee touched 152 kilometers per hour (94.4 miles per hour) with his fastball but also issued a pair of walks.

Among national team members who pitched for the Landers, Gwak Been, the second pitcher, looked solid while sitting above 150 kph. But reliever Lee Yong-chan threw two wild pitches in his one inning of work, and Jeong Cheol-won surrendered the solo shot to Park Kun-woo. Kim Won-jung was roughed up for four runs in the ninth.