(By Yoo Jun-sang, Xportsnews Busan) Younger players are taking their place one by one through the generational change, but it’s still up to the veterans to hold the centerpiece.
That’s why the Lotte Giants are on the rise. In front of a sold-out crowd, the veterans wrote a come-from-behind drama.
Lotte won its seventh game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against the KIA Tigers at Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan on March 3 with a 6-5 안전놀이터 walk-off victory to extend its winning streak to two games. They clinched the winner-take-all series regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s game.
Joon-woo Jeon and Jung-hoon, both veterans, were the only two players on the team to record multi-hit games, and Ahn Chi-hong, who had a four-hit game with one run batted in, was one of the players who needed to be the centerpiece.
It was KIA who set the tone early on. They scored three runs in the top of the second inning to put pressure on Lotte starter Na Kyun-an. The Lotte bats, on the other hand, struggled as they were unable to hit KIA starter Adonis Medina.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, “veteran” Jeon Jun-woo led off with a double to left-center field, followed by an RBI single by Ahn Chi-hong. He then pulled Medina from the mound to attack the bullpen.
After Yoo Kang-nam’s RBI double with the bases loaded, KIA called on left-hander Lee Jun-young in place of Lim Ki-young, but another veteran came through. Jung Hoon, who came in as a pinch hitter, hit a two-run double to make it 4-3. The comeback would not have been possible without the veterans at the top of the lineup.
In the bottom of the seventh, Ahn Chi-hong came to the plate. With the bases loaded, he took a seven-pitch forkball from Park Jun-pyo and hit a single up the middle, while pinch-runner Jeon Jun-woo ran all the way home to score the winning run.
In the top of the eighth, KIA tied the score at 5-5, but Noh Jin-hyuk’s game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth sealed the win. The role of the veterans was also highlighted in the process. After a leadoff walk by Park Seung-wook, Jeon Jun-woo and Ahn Chi-hong drew walks to load the bases. KIA, which had almost exhausted its bullpen, could not help but be psychologically chased by the veterans’ experience.
After the game, Lotte manager Larry Sutton praised the hitters’ persistence in not giving up on Medina, saying, “I think we were able to score runs in the middle and late innings.” “Even though we had two difficult situations in the second half, the hitters continued to play as a team, which led to runs and RBIs, so our chances came in the bottom of the ninth.”