The umpire who burned the liver of Ryu Joong-il and Korean baseball fans made an unexpected last-minute gesture. He personally delivered the winning ball for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games gold medal.
The South Korean baseball team, led by Ryu Jung-il, defeated Chinese Taipei 2-0 in the baseball gold medal game at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games on Sunday at the Shaoxing Baseball & Softball Sports Centre-Baseball in Hangzhou, China.
The victory was South Korea’s sixth gold medal of the Games, joining Bangkok 1998, Busan 2002, Guangzhou 2010, Incheon 2014 and Jakarta-Palembang 2018. The national anthem was played at the Shaoxing Baseball Sports and Cultural Center after the team completed the feat of winning their fourth consecutive Asian Games title.
Korea came out firing in the gold medal game, looking to avenge a 0-4 loss to Chinese Taipei in the second game of their Group B opener on Feb. 2. Starting pitcher Moon Dong-ju (Hanwha) silenced the Taiwanese bats with a six-inning, three-hit shutout, striking out seven.
The bats came out firing early. In the top of the second inning, Kim Ju-won (NC) hit a sacrifice fly to center field and scored on a wild pitch by Taiwanese starter Lin Yu-min to take a 2-0 lead.
Korea continued to push for more runs, but were unable to extend their lead against Taiwan’s second pitcher, LIU Chih-Jung, who took the mound in the top of the sixth inning. Instead, Choi Ji-min (KIA) and Park Young-hyun (KT) pitched one-hit shutouts in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, to move closer to the gold medal.
In the bottom of the ninth, Ryu Jung-il started his defense and turned to Ko Woo-seok (LG) for the final three outs to secure the gold medal. Ko was eager to avoid a repeat of his first-inning, two-run performance against Chinese Taipei on the previous two days. He got off to a good start by getting the leadoff hitter to fly out to center field.
However, he ran into trouble when he faced Taiwan’s No. 3 hitter Lin Li, as the umpire’s strike calls were inconsistent. A series of pitches in the strike zone were ruled balls on the TV replays.
Go Woo-seok and catcher Kim Hyung-joon (NC) looked frustrated, but the umpires were inconsistent. Balls that were out of the strike zone were called strikes, leaving them scratching their heads.
Go Woo-seok was disappointed, even slumping on the mound for a moment. Kim Hyung-jun was also unable to appeal to the umpire, but it was clear that he was not satisfied with the call.
Go gave up back-to-back singles to Linley and Lin-Anker on unfavorable ball counts in the aftermath of a questionable strike call. With runners on first and second, the tension on the field grew.
But Ko Woo-seok and Korean baseball would not be denied. Ko induced an infield grounder to Wu Nianting, and Korean second baseman Kim Hye-sung tagged out the runner at first base and promptly threw to first to end the game.
With the gold medal clinched, the players in the Korean dugout on first base jumped onto the field in unison to celebrate. Ko Woo-seok broke down in tears after his first save of his national team career, and he was able to put his disappointment at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics behind him.
Before the South Korean players performed a brief ceremony on the field with a Korean flag in each hand, Kim took a moment to head to the dugout. He took off his catcher’s gear and turned back to his teammates.
That’s when the umpire approached him. With a smile on his face, he said,스포츠토토 “Winning ball,” and handed him the ball. The gold medal was momentarily unclaimed as Korean first baseman Moon Bo-kyung (LG) threw his glove to the ground in excitement and tangled with his teammates after Kim Hye-sung’s grounder to complete the 27th and final out. The umpire retrieved the ball and handed it to Kim before leaving the field.
With a smile on his face, Kim took the winning ball and briefly expressed his disappointment with the umpire’s strike call in the bottom of the ninth inning. The umpire didn’t respond, just smiled, patted him on the shoulder, and walked away. Kim returned to the field to celebrate the gold medal with his teammates.
After the ceremony, Go Woo-seok, who must have been just as emotional on the mound as Kim Hyung-joon, reflected, “(The ninth inning strike call) was disappointing for both of us. When I think about it after the fact, I think the call was made so that Kim Hyung-joon could finish with a kill.”
He also said, “Kim Hyung-joon did a great job in the bottom of the ninth with runners on first and second. He did a great job with what I didn’t think about, so I was able to keep my cool and throw well.”