Fri, Dec 08, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan clinch gold in nail-biter

DRAMATIC WIN A four-run blast in the seventh and Lin Chih-sheng's game-winning hit helped to defeat a brave Japanese team and earn the nation the No. 1 spot in Doha

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Taiwan's baseball team pose with their gold medals after winning the Asian Games Baseball final in Doha, Qatar, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Lin Chih-sheng's (林智勝) walk-off single with men on second and third scored the game-winning runs for Taiwan in the bottom of the ninth as it beat Japan by 8-7 to clinch its first-ever gold medal in baseball at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar last night.

The La New Bears slugger who drove a full-count pitch from Japanese reliever Takasaki Kentaro just beyond the reach of shortstop Fukuda Koichi knocked in two runs that helped Taiwan overcome an one-run deficit to snatch the gold in dramatic fashion, putting a storybook ending to the nation's quest for the holy grail when it began play early last week.

Lin also helped his team's winning cause with a stellar defensive grab on an inning-end play in the top of the ninth that kept Japan from scoring with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth.

After trailing the Japanese by as many as three runs in the top of the seventh, Taiwan finally erupted for four game-turning runs in the bottom of the inning on five singles, a wild pitch and a sacrifice-fly to claim a 6-5 lead.

But the feisty Japanese would promptly respond with Yoshiura Takashi's two-run home run off Taiwanese reliever Tseng Song-wei (增菘瑋) to regain a 7-6 cushion in the top of the eighth, setting the stage for Lin's late-game heroics one inning later.

`One more chance'

"I am glad the coach gave me one more chance at it, instead of having someone pinch-hit for me," a thankful Lin said after the game.

He was hitless in his four previous at-bats before delivering the game-clincher.

The historic victory for Taiwan began with the Japanese wasting little time getting to Taiwanese starter Chiang Jien-ming (姜建銘) (starting pitcher for Japanese professional team the Yomiuri Giants) with Yoshiura's fly ball to deep-right that bounced off centerfielder Hsieh Jia-shien's (謝佳賢) (Macoto Cobras) glove for an RBI triple that gave Japan a 1-0 lead in the opening frame.

Two more runs by Japan, courtesy of Suzuki Kanya's one-run double down the first base line and Taiwanese reliever Keng Po-shuen's (耿伯軒) wild pitch quickly made it 3-0 in favor of the Japanese only one out into the top of the second.

Down by three runs, Taiwan finally troubled the scoreboard in the bottom of the third when Hsieh nailed an opposite-field double off Japanese starter Isomura Hideto and scored on Hu Jin-long's blooper to shallow-right that dropped for a single before Chen Yong-ji's liner to right brought in Taiwan's second run of the game to make it 3-2.

After a scoreless fourth and fifth for both teams, Japan would tack on a run each in the sixth and seventh to lead by a 5-2 margin on Fukuda's run-scoring single in the sixth that scored Suzuki, thanks to a blown call by the first base umpire, and Yokoyama Kenichi's seventh-inning RBI single up the middle in what seemed a sure victory for Japan.

But the determined Taiwan crew was not to be denied, overcoming the three-run deficit with a four-run seventh before rallying for a second comeback that delivered the gold.

Tseng was credited with the win for pitching the final two innings in the game, despite allowing a two-run homer that put Japan ahead in the top of the eighth.

Taking the disheartening loss for Japan was his counterpart Takasaki, who pitched Japan out of a two-on-with-no-outs jam in a scoreless eighth for Taiwan before Lin made him pay on the game-winner.

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