Incheon High School’s “ace” pitcher Kim Taek-yeon led the team to the finals of the National High School Baseball Championship for the first time in 19 years. Kim, who stayed on the mound until the 105-pitch limit was reached, showed his true colors with a nine-strikeout performance. It was a day that proved his draft-changing credentials as he pitched well enough to challenge for the No. 1 overall pick.

On August 12, Incheon won the semifinals against Kyungpook National University 3-2 at Mokdong Stadium in Seoul. Incheon will face Gunsan Sangil High School in the final at 1 p.m. on Aug. 14 at Mokdong Stadium.

After a scoreless first inning for both teams, the scoring started in the second inning. In the top of the second inning, Gyeongbuk High put runners on first and second with back-to-back singles by Lee Seung-hyun and Jung Hee-chan and a sacrifice bunt by Steady Hwan against Incheon High starter Park Sang-hyun.

The Incheon bench immediately sent their “ace” Kim Taek-yeon to the mound as the threat of an early run loomed. Kim gave up the first run of the game when he was hit by a pitch while facing Park Hyun-hoo. However, Kim struck out Park Hyun-hoo and Park Gun-woo in succession to prevent further damage.

Incheon fought back in the bottom of the second inning, with leadoff hitter Lim Kyu-young leading off with a single to right. After advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt, Lim made a bold attempt to steal third base two batters later. A throwing error by the opposing catcher at third led to the tying run scoring.

After Kim Taek-yeon struck out the side in the top of the third, Incheon took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on a solo home run by leadoff hitter Park Jae-hyun.

However, Incheon tied the game in the top of the fifth with a fielding error. With one out in the top of the fifth, Park Gun-woo led off with a triple to right-center field, but second baseman Lim Kyu-young, who was playing forward defense, made a throwing error on Kim Se-hoon’s grounder to short.

The back-and-forth flow continued. In the bottom of the fifth, Incheon had runners on first and third after leadoff hitter Lee Woo-jun doubled to left-center field, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Lee Yoo-chan. Park Jae-hyun, who hit a home run in the previous at-bat, followed with an RBI single to left center to bring the lead back to 3-2.

Kim Taek-yeon, who also took the mound in the top of the ninth after working a long inning, got leadoff hitter Jung Hee-chan to ground out to second base and then struck out the next batter, Shin Dong-hwan, on a wild pitch. With his pitch count limited (105 pitches), Kim gave the ball to Jung Joo-young and walked off the mound. Kim showed off his best pitching, combining a precise delivery with 74 strikes out of 105 pitches, while also striking out nine batters.

Is Kim Taek-yeon the next great Korean closer? No. A homegrown starting ace is just as good.

On August 9, Kim took the mound in the quarterfinals against Yushin High School and threw 6.1 innings of two-hit ball with 75 pitches, seven strikeouts, and two walks, and two days later, he took the mound on August 12 and threw 7.1 innings of four-hit ball with 105 pitches, nine strikeouts, and one walk to lead his team to the final. He proved that he has enough value not only as a bullpen pitcher but also as a starter.

Incheon High head coach Gye Ki-beom said, “(Kim) pitched a lot in this tournament and struggled, so we were able to reach the final. Now that she can’t pitch in the final and has to go to the youth national team and do well, I’m going to take care of her. We’ve been using Taek-yeon as a relief pitcher because of the way the tournament is organized, but she’s capable of doing her job as a starter. I don’t see any reason why he should be limited to being a closer in the pros. He has enough stamina to throw the ball as a starting pitcher.”

After finishing his appearance at the Presidential Games, Kim spoke to the press after the final, saying, “I pitched with all my might to keep the momentum when the team turned the tables. When I took the mound in the ninth inning, I had only nine pitches left, and I tried to throw all of them for strikes to stop them, but I’m glad I was able to get a strikeout with 105 pitches and get two outs to help my team win,” she smiled.토토사이트

Kim’s appearance in the President’s Cup solidified his position in the upcoming rookie draft. In 13 appearances in official tournaments this year, Kim went 7-1 with a 1.13 ERA, 97 strikeouts, 10 walks, and a 0.66 WHIP, showing that he is a complete pitcher with both fastball and changeup. Together with Hwang Jun-seo, a pitcher from Jangchung High School, the ‘TOP 2’ system was solidified. At the tournament, there was even a half-serious, half-joking remark that Kim could become Han Taek-yeon (Hanwha + Kim Taek-yeon).

“After throwing 75 pitches and taking two days off, I was definitely tired when I took the mound and threw 105 pitches,” said Kim. However, my teammates helped me with good defense, so I was able to play long innings. The opponent was a strong team, so I focused on throwing the ball to the corners of the strike zone. I wanted to show my strengths in this situation because I don’t have any ambitions to be a starting pitcher in the future. Now, I will prepare well to show better pitches in the youth national team,” said Kim.

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