Chang Jien-ming's two-run homer to deep-right off South Korean reliever Choi Won-jae in the top of the twelfth inning broke a 7-7 deadlock for Taiwan as the team overcame deficits as large as four runs to beat South Korea in first round action of the 2006 XVI Intercontinental Cup Baseball Championship at Taichung yesterday afternoon.
The third-year outfielder for the Sinon Bulls did the nation proud with a spell of timely late-game magic to give Taiwan its second straight come-from-behind victory in as many days. The result breathed new life into a once-flat squad that began the seven-game preliminaries with a pair of losses to Italy and Japan earlier last week.
"I was supposed to bunt him [Yang Chung-sho] over to second after the leadoff walk to put [the team] in a scoring position, but I guess that won't matter now," Chang said after the game.
Chang's decision to go deep, rather than adopt the more conservative play ordered by the dugout worked out perfectly for Taiwan.
Chang's homer won the game for Taiwan, but it was fellow infielder Chen Yong-ji's towering grand slam off reliever Jin Min-ho that brought the team back from a 6-3 deficit in the top of the seventh, resulting in a 7-6 lead that sent the sellout crowd of 12,000 into instant hysteria.
Right-hander Pan Wei-luen (President Lions) redeemed himself after an awful start that had resulted in Taiwan's loss to Italy on opening day with seven-and-a-third innings of three-hit relief.
A miscommunication between outfielders Chang and Tseng Chih-yao on a deep fly ball in the top of the ninth led to a triple and subsequently turned into the game-tying run for South Korea to send the contest into extra innings. But apart from that, Pan was brilliant in preventing the South Koreans from adding to the 6-2 lead they took in the fourth.
Home runs played a big part in the game for Taiwan, as all of the team's runs came in that fashion. It was cleanup man Hsieh Jia-shien's (Macoto Cobras) two-run blast that gave Taiwan a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first and Wang Chuan-jia's (Macoto Cobras) solo shot prior to Chen's grand slam that made it a five-run seventh for Taiwan.
Game starter Lin "Little Chick" En-yu (Macoto Cobras) -- this year's triple-crown winner and league-MVP in the Chinese Professional Baseball League (Lin led the league in most wins, strikeouts and lowest earned run average) -- was not particularly sharp in the four shaky innings he pitched for Taiwan, giving up two runs on five hits and a rare four walks.
Relievers Luo Cheng-long and Lee Chen-chang also did not fare well in the fifth, serving up four combined runs on two walks and four hits to set their team back 6-2 at that point.
As for the resilient South Koreans, their ability to rally back from two deficits in the game further exposed Taiwan's lack of a legitimate closer who can put the game away in the late innings.
All eight teams in this year's competition will take a well deserved day off today before play resumes tomorrow with the Netherlands, the Philippines and Cuba still lying in wait for Taiwan in the preliminaries.