A five-run fifth by South Korea’s Samsung Lions, highlighted by Jung Hyung-sik’s two-run single with the bases loaded, turned a 1-0 deficit into a four-run lead, and the Lions went on to defeat Japan’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 5-3 at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium late on Tuesday night to win their first ever Asia Series title.
Lions starter Jang Won-sam shook off an early run in the bottom of the first inning to pitch shutout ball into the seventh before being relieved to pick up the historic victory for his team and country as they baffled the four-time defending champion country with a valiant performance to earn the bragging rights as Asia’s best baseball club.
Hawks starter Sho Iwasaki cruised through the fourth with relative ease, but ran into a world of trouble in the fifth as he lost control by surrendering a one-out single, a walk and a hit batsman to load the bases and set the stage for Jung’s go-ahead single.
Iwasaki allowed another run on a ground-rule double to the Lions’ Park Sok-min before a defensive error by his shortstop allowed two more runs off reliever Yang Yao-hsun to put their team up by four.
The two runs proved critical for the Lions, as the Hawks managed to pull within two with a pair of runs off reliever Kwon Hyuk in the bottom of the eighth to make it 5-3.
It could have been an even bigger inning for the Hawks as they loaded up the bases with no outs against Kwon, which forced Lions skipper Ryu Joong-il to send in closer Oh Seung-hwan, who got the Hawks’ Nobuhiro Matsuda to ground into a double play despite allowing a run to score.
Oh gave up another run before ending the Hawks’ comeback attempt by retiring the next four batters he faced to preserve the win for the Lions.
“It’s great to be able to win the title for the first time,” Ryu said after the game.
His team not only avenged a 9-0 shutout loss to the Hawks in the first round on Saturday, they also pocketed the NT$15 million (US$495,000) check for winning the title.
Failure to cash in big against the Lions in the eighth made the difference in the game for the Hawks as they plated only two runs from a bases-loaded-with-no-outs opportunity in a game in which they actually out-hit the Lions 10-to-8, well short of the Lions’ five-run fifth that sealed the victory.
The Hawks go home with the consolation prize of NT$10 million, while the third-place Uni-President Lions (1-2) and the winless Perth Heat of Australia (0-3) each had to settle for NT$2.5 million for participating.