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41-year-old chief unites in one word, wins with 4 off and chases

They had to use substitutes due to a series of departures from the starting lineup, and the pitching staff was also unavailable after the previous day’s 12-inning extra innings and close game. However, KIA stuck together and held on. In the end, they won and took the lead.

The baseball team KIA Tigers won a tightly contested 7-4 victory over the NC Dinos in the regular season of the 2024 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at NC Park in Changwon on Sunday. With the win, Kia secured first place with a record of 27 wins, 16 losses, and one draw.

Kia was not going to be able to play that day. After Lee Yi-ri left with an injury, even Will Crowe was diagnosed with elbow ligament damage and traveled to the United States to get a proper diagnosis. That left two holes in the starting lineup. Kim Gun-guk had to pitch in place of Lee. Add to that the fact that the previous day (the 16th), they had played Doosan for four hours and 40 minutes in 12 extra innings to draw 7-7, and they arrived in Changwon at dawn.

It was an exhausted squad. In addition, four pitchers, Choi Ji-min, Kwak Do-gyu, Jang Hyun-sik, and Jung Jung-young, were in the middle of a three-game series. Lee Beom-ho decided to rest them before the game. It was a tempting moment for the manager, but he resisted.

However, Kim Gun-guk, who was the alternate starter, was not at his best. He gave up one run on two hits, one walk, one strikeout and one hit batter in the first inning. He was pulled with a tight left hamstring muscle. The team was forced into a bullpen day with no alternatives.

KIA held on. They scored one run in the first inning, but in the third inning, Choi Won-joon’s RBI double, Na Sung-beom’s grounder to shortstop, and Choi Hyung-woo’s RBI single to center field made it 3-1.

Kim Sa-yoon, who came on in relief of Kim Gun-guk, gave up a run in the third inning, but pitched three innings of two-hit ball, three walks, two strikeouts, and one unearned run (unearned) in the fourth inning to keep the game close. In the top of the fifth, Yoon gave up a solo shot to Davidson to tie the game at 3-3.

Kim Do-hyun took over the mound in the sixth inning. Here, he had an unfortunate situation. In the top of the sixth inning, Kim induced Do Tae-hoon to hit a ground ball to the first baseman, but it hit the first baseman and went out of the infield. It was a hit. Son gave up a walk to Choi Jung-won, who singled to left. He gave up a sacrifice fly to left field to Park Gun-woo to make it 3-4. Kim didn’t falter and struck out Davidson, the No. 4 hitter, on a high fastball. It gave them the momentum to hold on.

After Kim prevented further runs, the bats came alive again. After leadoff hitter Hong Jong-pyo singled up the middle and stole second, Park Chan-ho hit a priority double to center field to tie the game at 4-4. Choi Won-jun flied out to right field, but Park advanced to third on a wild pitch, and Na Sung-beom lined a single up the middle to center field to regain the lead at 5-4. No more runs were scored, but the lead was secure.

It didn’t go smoothly. Kim Do-hyun, who took the mound for the seventh inning after the sixth, gave up a straight ball to leadoff hitter Kwon Hee-dong. But he got Kim Sung-wook on a sacrifice bunt, then got Kim Hyung-joon to ground out to shortstop and pinch-hitter Seo Ho-chul to strike out swinging to preserve the lead. Kim Do-hyun roared. Kia added a two-run shot by Na Sung-beom in the ninth to put the game out of reach. In the bottom of the ninth, Jeon Sang-hyun, not Jung Hae-young, came in to close out the game and preserve the three-run lead.

A united squad was the driving force behind the first-place finish. “It was a tight game,” Lee Beom-ho said after the game. At every crucial moment, the batters scored runs and fought back, especially when the starter went down unexpectedly early, but the pitchers behind him did their job and secured the win. I want to thank the whole team for their hard work,” said the coach, who applauded the team.

Choi Hyung-woo, the 41-year-old most senior member of the squad, also provided a rallying cry to the team. “When I see the pitchers resting in the dugout, I know that the hitters are also resting today, so I was thinking about this today, too,” Na said after the game. “And before the pregame cheer with the hitters, Hyung-woo Choi said, ‘Our pitchers are struggling a lot, because we had another tough game yesterday. They had another tough game yesterday, so let’s try to be a little bit stronger and focus on the important moments and score one run at a time,'” he said.

“Even if you know it, I think it’s different to tell the team and not to tell the team, so I thought about it and tried to get on base somehow. Even if it was a one-run game, I think I was more focused and focused on defense,” he said.

Kia was able to defend its top spot against all odds thanks to a united team effort.



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