South Korea defeated Japan 6-2 Friday to enter the gold medal match of the Beijing Olympic baseball tournament, and will face winner of the Cuba-United States semifinal.
The two Asian teams tied 2-2 in the first seven innings, till South Korea's Lee Seung-yuop homered in the eighth inning to put his team in a two-point lead. The South Koreans extended the lead afterwards to win the game at 6-2.
"It was a very important game and I am very happy to hit a homerun. I treasure every chance and never give up. Actually, I was just looking for a base hit but it turned out to be a homerun," Lee Seung-yuop said after the match.
South Korea has won all seven matches in the preliminary rounds and added one more victory in the semifinal. Team manager Kim Kyung-moon said that Friday's game was a balance between playing hard and reserving energy for the final.
"We have to save the pitchers' stamina, as well as the batters', for tomorrow's match. However, we also had to fight well today to enter the final," he said.
The team manager said the victory over Japan didn't mean South Korea was a better team than Japan. "Winning the game sometimes has something to do with goodluck," he added.
Another semifinal between Cuba and the United States is scheduled for Friday evening. The winner will fight with South Korea on Saturday for what could be the last baseball gold medal at the Olympics, since baseball will not be included in the 2012 London Games. Whether it can enter the Games afterwards remains unclear.
(Xinhua News Agency August 22, 2008)