The day of the showdown had dawned. Lee Kang-cheol begins his voyage to Miami for the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC). The first opponent is Australia (12 noon on the 9th).
National team coach Lee Kang-cheol said at a press conference held at the Tokyo Dome in Japan on the 8th, “I am nervous, but I think it is light tension.” “I have prepared well. The players also prepared with confidence and will step out with a spleen resolution.” Regarding the strengths of this national team, “The beast has a solid defense, quick feet and long hitting power, and the players are well harmonized. As for the pitcher, the old and the new are well harmonized between the veteran and the young gun.”
In terms of objective strength, Korea is ahead of Australia. The Australian national team has weakened significantly compared to the previous tournament, with Liam Hendricks (Chicago White Sox), one of the best bullpen pitchers in the major leagues, unable to play due to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (blood cancer). Manager Lee Kang-cheol said, “It is said that Korea has an advantage over Australia in terms of power, but baseball does not know that. I will work with the thought of fighting the absolute strongest.”
Korea pitches sidearm pitcher Koh Young-pyo (32, kt Wiz) as the starter against Australia. Ko Young-pyo started in a practice match (3rd) against SSG Landers held at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul and showed a perfect pitch with no hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts and no runs in 3 innings. At the Tokyo Olympics, when he first participated in the Taegeuk mark, he pitched in two games and recorded 10 hits (2 homers), 13 strikeouts and 6 runs in 9⅔ innings. The Australian national team selection to face Koh Young-pyo is ‘young blood’ Jack Olochlin (23). He is a left-handed pitcher who plays for Single A under the Detroit Tigers of the American Professional Baseball Minor League. 바카라
Korea and Australia will both go head-to-head in the first game. Considering that Japan is the strongest group in Group B in terms of team composition, Korea and Australia will compete for second place in Group B, which will advance to the quarterfinals. The Czech Republic and China in the same Group B are rated one number lower. Coach Dave Nilsson, who arrived in Japan two weeks ago and prepared for the tournament, said, “Like Korea, we prepared a lot. The match against Korea is expected to be a very tight and fierce match.”
Players are also aware of the importance of the first game. “Captain” Hyun-soo Kim (LG Twins), who won the Taegeuk mark for the 10th time at this tournament, said, “I am both nervous and excited.” He is the most important game, so we must catch it.” Regarding the national team, “From the first time we gathered in Arizona, the atmosphere was good and we wanted to win as one. This national team has seniors and young players, so I think the harmony was the best (compared to the previous national team).”
Korea is on a 8-game winning streak since winning 16-2 (seven cold wins) against Australia in the final qualifying round for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. During the World Baseball Classic, they met once in the first round of the 2013 tournament and won 6-0. Coach Lee said, “I have to win the first game so that I can comfortably enter the Korea-Japan match (7:00 pm on the 10th).”
In 2013 (0-5 loss against the Netherlands) and 2017 (1-2 loss against Israel), Korea suffered the humiliation of being eliminated in the first round after losing the first game. Can Korea, the runner-up in 2009, regain its honor in the World Baseball Classic, which is being held for the first time in six years? As national team coach Lee Kang-cheol said, “the die has been cast.”