South Korea’s Lee Jin-young, left, scores on an RBI single by Ko Young-min in the fourth inning of their Olympic baseball game against Cuba at the Wukesong Baseball Stadium in Beijing Tuesday. / Joint Press Corps
By Kim Tong-hyung
Kim Hyun-soo doubled twice and Ko Young-min's two-run single sparked a five-run fourth inning as South Korea rallied to defeat Cuba 7-4 to remain as the only unbeaten team in the Olympic baseball tournament.
The two teams have been engaged in a compelling race at the top of the round-robin Olympic play, but Tuesday's game was more about bragging rights as both squads had already booked their spots in the semifinals that begin Friday.
Nonetheless, South Korean manager Kim Kyung-moon has to feel good about gaining a mental edge against the Cubans, who his team might meet again in the battle for the podium.
Cuba, the only other team with a perfect record heading into Tuesday's match at Wukesong Stadium, struck first on a two-run double by Ariel Pestano and an RBI single by Giorbis Duvergel off Korean starter Song Seung-joon in the top of the second.
However, Korea's Kim Hyun-soo led off the fourth with a double, advanced to third on consecutive walks by Cuban reliever Vicyohandry Odelin, and scored on an RBI single by Kang Min-ho.
Ko, who was brilliant with both his bat and glove, tied the game 3-3 with a single to right that brought home Lee Dae-ho and Lee Jin-young. A throwing error to first by Norberto Gonzales, the third Cuban pitcher, on a Lee Yong-kyu grounder brought home Kang and Ko to give the Koreans a 5-3 lead.
Song, who gave up three runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings, played with fire all day, but managed to hold a potent Cuban lineup scoreless for four innings after the three-run second, helped by an airtight infield defense and timely strikeouts.
Cuba seemed poised to strike back in the fifth, with Duvergel hitting a leadoff double off Song. However, Ko, one of the better defensive second basemen in the tournament, saved a potential run by catching up to a Michel Enriquez grounder just outside of the infield diamond and hurling it back to first for an out.
Song ended the threat by getting Yuliesky Gurriel on a grounder to third and Alexander Malleta on a popper to the shortstop.
Ko contributed again in the sixth, leading off with a single to center and reaching third on a throwing error by Cuban catcher Pestano on a steal attempt to second. Yong-kyu drove in Ko on a single to left to make it 6-3.
The Cubans threatened again in the seventh, with Pestano leading off with a single and reaching second on a grounder to third by Eduardo Paret. That was enough for manager Kim to yank Song for reliever Kwon Hyok, who got Duvergel to fly out to left.
Kwon then walked Enriquez, and Kim replaced him for Yoon Suk-min, the team's top middle reliever, who got Gurriel on a deep fly to right to end the threat.
After the Koreans added another run in the seventh, the Cubans responded with one run in the eighth, with Hector Olivera doubling off Yoon and scoring on a single by Frederich Cepeda.
Korea's Oh Seung-hwan pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.