The ‘Baseball Personality 2’ outfielder’s breakout year. A grand slam changed the atmosphere at the Gocheok Dome.
The Kiwoom Heroes won the final game of their weekend series against the Lotte Giants at the Gocheok Sky Dome on Aug. 28, 7-5, thanks to a walk-off home run by Lim Ji-yeol in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Im’s third home run of the season. It was the ninth home run in the KBO this year (No. 1024) and the first since his debut. It was the one that saved the series and ended the team’s four-game losing streak.
It was a game that finally erupted after a dormant volcano of hitting the day before. Ki was held to one run until the sixth inning by Lotte ace Na Kyun-ahn. They had runners in scoring position in four of the six innings, but scoring was not easy.
In the bottom of the first, Kim Hye-sung doubled and Russell walked, but Lee Jung-hoo and Lim Byung-wook struck out in succession. In the second inning, Kim Hui-jip doubled, but Lee Won-seok, Lee Ji-young and Lee Hyung-jong struck out.
In the third, Kim Jun-wan singled, 안전놀이터 Kim Hye-sung walked, and Lee Jung-hoo singled to load the bases. However, Russell’s single scored one run.
The fourth and fifth innings were three-run deficits. In the sixth inning, Lee Jung-hoo led off with a single and stole second base, but was unable to score.
Kiwoom, on the other hand, was shaken by starter Jung Chan-heon, who gave up five runs on six hits in 4⅔ innings. In the top of the second inning, Lotte’s Go Seung-min and Han Dong-hee hit back-to-back sacrifice flies with the bases loaded. In the third inning, LOTTE’s Jeon Jun-woo tripled and Ahn Chi-hong singled with two outs.
Jeong Chan-heon faced another crisis in the fifth when Yoon Dong-hee singled and Ahn Kwon-soo walked. In the process, there was an error at first base. Park Seung-wook followed with a bunt single, Jeon Jun-woo with a sacrifice fly and Ahn Chi-hong with an RBI single to make it 1-5. In the sixth inning, an error by the left fielder put runners on second and third, but they managed to escape.
It was the buildup to a late-game comeback. In the seventh inning, Kim put runners on first and third with one out against Lotte’s second pitcher, Kim Do-gyu, and drew a walk to the next pitcher, Kim Jin-wook, to load the bases. Kim then hit a deep grounder to the second base side of the infield to score a run.
The drama was written in the eighth inning. Against Kim Sang-soo, who has been Lotte’s best pitcher this season, Lee Won-seok hit three straight singles to load the bases. A sacrifice fly by Kim Dong-heon and a single by Kim Hwijip brought the bases loaded again at 3-5.
Lotte brought up their fifth pitcher, Yoon Myung-jun, and Lee Hyung-jong struck out, but Lim Ji-yeol hit a grand slam over the center field fence. Lim Ji-yeol is the son of Hanwha’s Seosan part manager Lim Ji-jok, who was once part of Binggrae’s dynamite batting lineup.
Kiwoom held off the Lotte offense with Lim Chang-min in the top of the ninth to secure the hard-fought win. Lim Byung-wook and Kim Hye-sung were also outstanding.
On this day, Gocheok Sky Dome sold out 16,000 seats for the second consecutive day for the first time in six years since 2017. Lotte fans who dreamed of becoming a “top dog” filled the stadium with their eager cheers. However, Kiwoom players, who are used to being underdogs, managed to fight back.
Meanwhile, in the top of the seventh inning, Kiwoom’s Ha Young-min was hit directly in the knee by Lotte’s Jeon Jun-woo and was immediately rushed to the hospital. The team breathed a sigh of relief when a CT scan showed no unusual findings.