Olympic Baseball 2021: South Korea Tops Israel in Extra Innings to Win Opener

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 29, 2021

South Korea's Euiji Yang celebrates with teammates after being hit by pitch to walk in the winning run in the tenth inning of a baseball game against Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 29, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. South Korea won 6-5.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

South Korea came out on top of a back-and-forth affair against Israel to start pool play in Group B at the Tokyo Olympics baseball tournament. 

The Koreans came from behind twice with two runs in the fourth inning and three runs in the seventh inning. 

Israel forced extra innings through a Ryan Lavarnway home run in the ninth inning, but its pitching staff let it down in the 10th. 

Relief pitcher Jeremy Bleich hit the final two South Korea batters of the game to plate the game-winning run and give the Asian nation a 6-5 victory at Yokohama Stadium.

South Korea put itself in position to win the contest by putting runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the 10th. In the Olympic tournament, extra innings begin with runners on first and second base. Jae-Gyun Hwang dropped a sacrifice bunt to place both players in scoring position. 

Israel looked to be in decent shape to get out of the jam after Ty Kelly made an acrobatic catch in short left field to retire Ji-Hwan Oh.

However, that would be the final out recorded by the Israel pitching staff, as Bleich hit the final two batters of the game. Kyoung-Min Hur was the first batter hit by Bleich, loading the bases with two outs. On the next pitch, Eui-Ji Yang was hit by an inside pitch to force home the game-winning run. 

Israel was on the front foot for a few parts of the game thanks to its power bats. Lavarnway and Ian Kinsler accounted for all five of the team's runs through long balls. 

Kinsler opened the scoring with a two-run blast to left field in the third inning that brought home Mitch Glasser. 

South Korea responded with a two-run double from Jae-Il Oh in the fourth. 

Lavarnway put Israel back on top in the sixth with a long ball that also plated Danny Valencia, who reached base through a one-out single. 

South Korea found power of its own at the plate during the three-run rally in the seventh that appeared to give it the winning advantage. 

Jung-Hoo Lee and Hyun-Soo Kim hit back-to-back blasts to level the contest at four runs apiece, and Ji-Hwan Oh completed the inning with a go-ahead RBI single. 

Lavarnway's second home run in the ninth found its way over the right field fence to eventually send the game to extra frames.

Israel failed to take advantage of its two-runner start in the top of the 10th, opening the door for South Korea to capitalize in the bottom part of the frame. 

The victory put the Koreans on top of the three-team Group B that also includes the United States. The Americans face Israel in their group opener Friday and then they will face South Korea to finish the group slate Saturday. 

The winner of Group B will be matched up with the Group A champion. The second-place teams in each group and the third-place sides in each pool will play each other to start the knockout round. Japan, Mexico and the Dominican Republic are in Group A.