`Swordsmen' title may shift to the Bulls

TAIWAN PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL: While the Brother Elephants once dominated with a core of three hitters, the Sinon Bulls have developed their own trio this year

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 22

The main reason that the Brother Elephants were able to claim the coveted championship trophy in the past two years was the offensive output by the heart of its batting order.

Chen Chih-yuan (陳致遠), Peng Cheng-ming (彭政閔), and Tsai Fong-an (蔡豐安) were the one-two-three punch that kept opposing pitchers and managers awake at nights with their clutch-hitting and awesome power.

Chen batted .289 with 15 homers and 57 RBIs; Peng batted .310 with 18 homers and 71 RBIs; Tsai batted .294 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs.

These three players' success on the field made them the three most recognizable faces in the CPBL and earned them the nickname of "The Three Swordsmen" of the Brother Elephants.

While The Three Swordsmen have not faired nearly as well as they did last season (Chen batted .280 with 4 homers and 32 RBIs; Peng batted .333 with 4 homers and 20 RBIs; Tsai batted .239 with 2 homers and 19 RBI's near the half-way mark), the name, "The Three Swordsmen," has quietly been assumed by Chang Jia-hao (張家浩), Tseng Hua-wei (曾華偉), and Chang Tai-shan (張泰山) of the Sinon Bulls for their recent success on the baseball diamond.

Except for the incredible popularity enjoyed by Bulls third baseman Chang Tai-shan for being the youngest player to reach the 100 home runs, the other two swordsmen are relatively new to media.

Batting ninth and playing right field for the Bulls is Chang Jia-hao, 26, who is in his fourth season with the Bulls. Chang joined the Bulls in 2000 and has progressed steadily over the past three years.

The Kaohsiung native has raised his batting average from .226 in his rookie season (2000) to .359 this year, which is second-best in the league.

Lead-off man

Leading off for the Bulls is center-fielder Tseng Hua-wei. Tseng, 25, began his career with the Bulls in 1998 as a member on the practice squad for one and a-half year before making the team roster in 2000.

The Taipei County native is enjoying his best season as a pro, with a .358 batting average and an excellent .423 on-base percentage. He's played in over 75 games in each of his past three 90-game seasons.

"I wish all of the players can be as reliable and positive as Tseng is," skipper Chen Wei-cheng (陳威成) recently told a local Chinese-language language newspaper.

Round Up

The First Securities Agan continue to be winless under the direction of interim manager Tsai Rong-tsung (蔡榮宗) after they lost earlier this week to the league-leading Bulls, extending their losing streak to seven games.

Starting pitcher Jeff Andra did not have his best stuff on Tuesday's game one of the four-game series against the Agan as far as location and velocity, but managed to overcome the setback with off-speed pitches. The left-handed native of the US state of Kansas earned his seventh victory of the season by yielding two runs on seven hits over 7-1/3 innings of work. Andra also ran up his league-leading strikeout total to 69 after sitting down four more batters against the hapless Agan.

Game two of the series on Wednesday was a foregone conclusion by the third inning as the Bulls chased Agan starter Liang Rue-hao (梁如豪) with four runs in the first inning. It marked the former Agan ace's shortest outing of the season as Liang lasted 2/3 of an inning.

The Bulls ended the slaughter in a 11-4 score and increased their lead over the second-placed Whales to 2.5 games.

The other game played on Wednesday in Hsinchuang was the completion of a rain-delayed contest between the Makoto Gida and the President Lions that had started in Hualien on May 18th. The Gida salvaged the three-game series, making it 1-1-1, by beating the Loins 3-0. The shutout recorded by Gida starter Yang Chi-jia (楊騏嘉) was the first shutout victory recorded by a local pitcher this season.

Upcoming Games

The Bulls will look to sweep the Agan on their visit to Kaohsiung on Friday and Saturday while the Agan take the field in search of manager Tsai's first win.The ChinaTrust Whales hosted the slumping Lions in Hsinchuang yesterday, and will meet in Tienmu tomorrow and in Hsinchu on Sunday. It will be a tough series for the second-placed Whales as they face the top two Lions pitchers, Joe Davenport (8-1) and Pan Wei-luen (6-1).

The Elephants opened a homestand against the Gida in Hsinchu yesterday, moving on to Hsinchuang tomorrow and Tienmu on Sunday.