(WBC) Sidearm pitcher Ko Young-pyo to start vs. Australia in 1st game

March 8, 2023

Ko Young-pyo, a right-hander with a sidearm delivery, will start South Korea’s first game of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) against Australia on Thursday.

Manager Lee Kang-chul announced on the eve of the game that the 31-year-old will take the ball for the crucial opening game of Pool B play at the tournament. The first pitch is noon Thursday at Tokyo Dome.

Ko is one of the most extreme groundball pitchers in the Korea Baseball Organization. Last year, Ko led the South Korean league with a 1.92 groundout-to-airout ratio. Ko lives off changeups and sinkers, throwing those two pitches more than 80 percent of the time.

He was 13-8 with a 3.26 ERA for the KT Wiz in the KBO in 2022, while setting career highs with 182 1/3 innings and 156 strikeouts.

Lee selected Ko and other groundball pitchers, convinced that Australian hitters would have trouble with their breaking balls and offspeed pitches.

South Korea has long pegged the Australian game as a must-win affair. With the top two teams from the group moving on to the quarterfinals, a victory on Thursday will essentially assure South Korea a spot in the final eight, alongside world No. 1 Japan.

A loss to Australia will make the Japan game on Friday a do-or-die contest for South Korea, and trying to beat one of the tournament favorites in the hostile confines of Tokyo Dome will be a tall order.

Earlier Wednesday, Australia announced former Detroit Tigers minor league pitcher Jack O’Loughlin as its starter against Japan.