“How he throws so well with a 140-kilometer-per-hour fastball, I admire him because it can’t be easy.”

Kiwoom Heroes manager Hong Won-ki, 50, expressed his admiration and gratitude for the gutsy pitching of Lee Myung-jong, 21, in his second year as a professional.토토사이트

Kiwoom defeated Lotte 7-6 in their regular-season home game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League on Tuesday at Gocheok Sky Dome in Guro-gu, Seoul. With the win, Kiwoom, which has 46 wins, three draws, and 64 losses, maintains a 1.5-game lead over ninth-place Samsung.

It was a game where victory was not easily assured. Kiwoom started rookie Oh Sang-won in the absence of their regular starters, while Lotte countered with homegrown ace Park Se-woong. In the end, Kiwoom lost the starting battle, as Oh Sang-won gave up three runs in 1⅔ innings and Park Sae-woong gave up three runs (one earned) in six innings. However, it did not lose the bullpen battle. Ha Young-min ended a two-out bases-loaded crisis created by Oh Sang-won with four sliders, and Park Seung-ju and Moon Sung-hyun, who came on afterward, pitched two scoreless innings.

The biggest threat came in the top of the eighth inning with Kiwoom leading 6-4. Kim Jae-woong took the mound and gave up a straight bunt single to Jung Hoon, an RBI double to right-center field to Jung, and a single to left field to Bae Young-bin, cutting the deficit to one run with no outs. With runners on first and third, Hong Won-ki turned to Lee Myung-jong. Lee induced a weak grounder in front of the shortstop against pinch-hitter Jeon Jun-woo to get the first out of the inning. The runner from third came home to tie the game at 6-6.

Despite the unfortunate run, Lee remained determined. He fired a first-pitch strike against Kim Min-seok and got a favorable pitch count of 2S1B. On the sixth pitch, a 139-kilometer-per-hour fastball in the top of the strike zone, Kim’s bat sliced through the air. Against Lee Jung-hoon, who was 3-for-4 on the day and was batting 4-for-4 on the season, he got another strike with a slider, this time a 139 mph fastball that sailed over the left-field fence. The bases were loaded and the threat of a run was over.

In the bottom of the eighth, Kiwoom scored a run on a ball hit to the body of Kim Dong-heon with the bases loaded and held on for the 8-7 victory. Naturally, Lee picked up his fifth win of the season.

Lee Myung-jong./Photo=Keum Heroes

A graduate of Seokgyocho, Segwangjoong, and Segwanggo, Lee Myung-jong is a second-year pitcher who was selected by Kiwoom with the 56th overall pick in the second round of the 2022 Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) First-Year Player Draft. His average fastball velocity is only 140.1 kilometers per hour according to Korean baseball statistics site Statiz, but he has the guts to pitch out of trouble and is already on pace for 10 career wins (4 in 2022 and 5 in 2023).

Until 20 games ago, only Moon Dong-ju (20-Hanwha Eagles) had won more than nine games in each of the last two years among his 2022 draft classmates. While Moon’s nine wins are special because he throws 160 kilometers per hour and is an ace, Lee’s nine wins are even more special because he did it in a situation where he didn’t even have the requirements to be a winning pitcher.

It hasn’t always been easy for Lee to accumulate wins. So far this year, four of his five wins have come with his team losing or within one run. His first win of the season came on May 28 against Gocheok Lotte, when he came on in the top of the seventh inning with Kiwoom trailing 1-5 and pitched 1⅔ scoreless innings. On June 17 against Daejeon Hanwha, with runners on first and third with the score tied at 5-5, he limited the damage to one run and earned his third win of the season thanks to a late rally. The fourth win, against Gwangju KIA on June 28, was not as easy. In the top of the 10th inning of extra innings with the score tied 5-5, Choi Won-jun, Lee Woo-sung, and Na Sung-beom retired the batters in order in nine pitches.

He wasn’t as fast as his teammates and didn’t have a superior fastball, but the bold mindset he developed in high school made him a go-to guy whenever the team was in trouble. “I’m more comfortable in tight, low-scoring situations,” Lee told Star News last month, “because then not only the pitcher is nervous, but also the batter. Personally, I think batters swing and approach differently when they are in scoring position than when they are relaxed.” “For batters, my pitches are not usually that hard to hit. I’m trying to win the game with my pitches, and in a close game, you can see the nerves on their faces, so it gives me more confidence.”

Being confident in crunch time is easier said than done. To put his resolve into practice, he kept up his fitness with regular weight training sessions and asked his seniors to check his pitches every day to help him decide on the day’s pitches. Once again, Lee lived up to the name of his team, the Heroes, as he saved his team from the brink.

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