Sat, Nov 08, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan ballplayers to go to Olympics

CLOSE RUN THING Taiwan's beating China wasn't enough to clinch a trip to Athens, Japan had to defeat South Korea to gain Taiwan the second place spot

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Taiwan's Chen Chin-feng hits an RBI triple to deep right in the eighth inning during the match against China in the final round of the Asian Baseball Championship at Sapporo Dome in Sapporo, northern Japan, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP/KYODO NEWS

Japan's 2-0 victory over South Korea in the final game of the 2003 Asian Baseball Championship gave the host country the unshared title in this year's competition and Taiwan the second-place finish that it desperately sought for the right to represent Asia in the upcoming Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

A loss by the Japanese would have sent South Korea in place of Taiwan because Taiwan, with the same 2-1 record as South Korea, would have lost the tiebreaker, having yielded more runs than South Korea.

To get the second win in this year's four-team, three-game round-robin tournament, in Sapporo Japan, Taiwan barely slipped by China with a 3-1 victory earlier in the day, thanks to slugger Chen Chin-feng's (陳金峰) sterling effort which matched his heroics which brought Taiwan the bronze medal in the 2001 World Cup.

Chen's hot bat continued to make opposing pitchers shiver as Chen went 3-for-4 for the second game in a row to help Taiwan bounce back from Thursday night's embarrassing 9-0 defeat by Japan.

Chen was one single shy of batting for the cycle as he ripped an offering from Chinese starter Wang Nan (王楠) for a solo home run in the bottom of the second, a standup double in the fourth and a run-scoring triple in the eighth.

The 26-year-old Tainan native accounted for all of Taiwan's three runs as he knocked home two and scored the third from third base on Wang Nan's wild pitch in the bottom of the fourth. From the mound, Taiwan's starter Chang Chih-chia (張誌家) followed his win over South Korea with another gem as he went the distance for the win, yielding one run on three hits while fanning an amazing 16 batters.

Chang took a shutout into the ninth before allowing a run on Chinese centerfielder Chang Hung-po's (張洪波) sacrifice fly to deep center that scored shortstop Ho Feng-lien (候鳳連) from third to avoid the shutout.

The game began with Taiwan taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on designated hitter Chen Chin-feng's solo shot to dead center, before the score read 2-0 in the fourth on a wild pitch that scored Chen again from third.

Taiwan put runners in scoring positions in the next three innings, but failed to cash in.

Outside the heavyweights in the order, who produced six of Taiwan's eight runs, the rest of the lineup was a meagerly 2-for-24 against Chinese pitching that yielded six runs to Japan and 13 to South Korea.

With China managing to stay within striking distance, Chen Chin-feng made sure his team would not be denied the victory by driving a pitch down the right-field line for a triple that scored fellow teammate Chang Tai-shan (張泰山) all the way from first for Taiwan's third and deciding run.

Despite the win, Taiwan's manager Hsu Sheng-ming (徐生明) expressed concern regarding his team's inability to put the game away earlier against a much weaker Chinese side. Hsu said he "would critically review the lack of offense overall as soon as the team returns home from Japan," according to Chinese-language media.

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