FROM USA BASEBALL RELEASE
BEIJING — Korea scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to rally and defeat Team USA, 8-7, in the Olympic opener on Wednesday evening at Wukesong Field 2.
Team USA had fought back with three runs of its own in the top of the ninth inning to take a one-run, lead but the Koreans mounted their own comeback, highlighted by a sacrifice fly from Jongwook Lee to earn the victory. The U.S. returns to action on Thursday morning to face the Netherlands with first pitch set for 10:30 a.m. local time (10:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, EDT).
Things looked good for the Red, White & Blue following the top of the ninth inning. Down two runs entering the frame, the U.S. recovered to take a 7-6 lead.
Mike Hessman (Fountain, Valley, Calif.) got things started with a solo home run, which Taylor Teagarden (Dallas, Texas) immediately followed with a single and Brian Barden (Templeton, Calif.) with a double. With runners on second and third base and two outs, the U.S. went ahead on a two-run single from Matt Brown (Bellevue, Wash.).
With the one-run cushion, the U.S. summoned reliever Jeff Stevens (Berkeley, Calif.) to close out the game. Korea, however, was not done, as pinch-hitter Keunwoo Jeong doubled to open the bottom of the ninth. With one out and Jeong on third base, the Koreans tied the game when Jeong scored from third on a fielder’s choice by beating the tag at home off a throw by second baseman Jayson Nix (Dallas, Texas).
Korea then caught a break thanks to a miscommunication on a pickoff by Stevens allowed Taekkeun Lee to advance from first to third. Jongwook Lee then ended the game with a sacrifice fly to center to secure the Korea victory.
Korea reliever Suk Min Yoon earned the win with one inning of relief in which he allowed just Brown’s hit while striking out one and walking one batter. Stevens took the loss for the U.S. after 1 1/3 innings of work.
Team USA wasted no time getting on the scoreboard with a run in the top of the first. Brown collected his first hit of the game with a two-out RBI single to left field. After Jayson Nix (Dallas, Texas) reached base on a one-out double, Brown ripped a 2-2 pitch from Korea starter Jungkeun Bong for a basehit that gave the U.S. a one-run cushion.
Korea would erase the one-run deficit on a two-run homer from Daeho Lee in the second inning. Dongjoo Kim led off with a single, and Daeho Lee followed with a home run to left field giving the Koreans a 2-1 lead.
Korea then caught a break in the third inning with two outs to increase its lead to 3-1 as an 0-2 pitch from U.S. starter Brandon Knight (Oxnard, Calif.) went high and past catcher Taylor Teagarden allowing Yongkyu Lee to score from third base.
The U.S. tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the fifth inning and knocked Bong from the game in the process.
Hessman opened the frame with a single, and Teagarden walked to give Team USA a pair of runners with no outs. Hessman later scored on Brian Barden’s two-strike single to left field. With two outs and runners still on first and second base, the U.S. tied the game when Terry Tiffee (North Little Rock, Ark.) laced reliever Taehyon Chong’s two-strike pitch to center field plating Teagarden.
Korea bounced back in the bottom half of the fifth, though, and regained the lead with three more runs off Knight. After a one-out walk to Youngmin Ko, the Koreans would tally four consecutive hits including RBI singles from Yongkyu Lee and Jinyoung Lee as well as an RBI double courtesy of Seungyuop Lee. Reliever Mike Koplove (Philadelphia, Pa.) entered and was able to do some damage control for the U.S. as he recorded a fielder’s choice out followed by a fly out to center to end the inning and keep the U.S. within three runs.
Team USA got a run back in the sixth inning when Nate Schierholtz (Danville, Calif.) launched a solo homer to right field to cut the deficit to 6-4. That would be it for the U.S. until the ninth inning as Korea reliever Taehyon Chong was effective in relief, working 2 2/3 innings and allowing just one run on two hits with six strikeouts.
Brian Barden went 3-for-4 to lead the U.S. at the plate with Tiffee, Brown and Hessman tallying two hits apiece as well. Jongwood Lee and Yongkyu Lee had two hits apiece to lead Korea at the plate. The U.S. finished with a 12-9 advantage in hits