BASEBALL/Hsu Jo-hsi shines in Asian Baseball Championship opener at Taipei Dome
Taipei, Dec. 4 (CNA) Taiwan lived up to Japanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh's expectations on Sunday, fending off South Korea in the Asian Baseball Championship opener 4-0 courtesy of a dominant performance from starting pitcher Hsu Jo-hsi (徐若熙).
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the Taipei Dome's opening on Saturday, Oh said that defeating South Korea in the first official game at the stadium could be a "watershed moment" for baseball in Taiwan.
Hsu, fresh from helping the Chinese Professional Baseball League's (CPBL) Wei Chuan Dragons to a first Taiwan Series in 24 years, duly delivered, serving up 10 strikeouts and yielding only two hits through seven scoreless innings.
Out of the 23-year-old's 77 pitches, 65 were strikes.
"I want to thank the manager for having me start and throw the first-ever pitch in a game at the Taipei Dome. The only thing I can do is show everyone the best I got," Hsu said during a postgame interview.
In two starts against the Rakuten Monkeys in November's best-of-seven Taiwan Series, Hsu surrendered only one run through 11 innings to be named series MVP.
This winning mindset worked well again on Sunday with the Monkeys' Sung Jia-xiang (宋嘉翔) behind the plate.
Following most of Sung's calls, Hsu fanned leadoff hitter Park Juchan in three pitches in the opening frame.
The young phenom's dominance also earned high praise from the Dragons manager Yeh Chun-chang (葉君璋), one of the 16,647 spectators at Sunday's game.
Despite his fastballs maxing out at a relatively pedestrian 150 kilometers per hour, Yeh said Hsu's breaking balls were "very nasty."
"He still took control of the game even when his fastball wasn't so fast. I think that's remarkable, making him look like an ace."
Sun Yi-lei (孫易磊) took to the mound in the eighth and relayed for a shutout win, giving up two hits and no earned run in the 18-year-old righty's debut in a senior international game.
Sun's scintillating performance at the 2023 U-18 Baseball World Cup earned him a four-year contract with the Hokkaido Nipponham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in mid-October worth about US$600,000.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's batters delivered in Sunday's triumph, tallying up 10 hits led by Lin Chen-fei's (林成飛) three-hit game plus one RBI.
Three runs came in the bottom of the third. Following Captain Taiwan Namoh Iyang's (拿莫.伊漾) leadoff double, the team scattered three more hits in a row for two runs before Liu Ji-hong (劉基鴻) grounded into a double play while bringing home the home team's third run.
Meanwhile, Chen Hsiao-yun (陳孝允), the sole amateur player on Taiwan's roster, knocked two hits and carried out a successful sacrifice bunt.
The Taiwan Cooperative Bank player also batted in Namoh Iyang in the third for the first RBI at the Taipei Dome.
Following the game, Chen said he "didn't think too much about making history."
"I just tried to do my job well and put the team on the board because the first run is important for us," said Chen, who batted second.
Taiwan's manager Kuo Lee Chien-fu (郭李建夫) said a stacked roster had given the coaching staff a hard time when arranging the batting order.
In addition to the victory, Team Taiwan left many a mark in its favor in the history of the Taipei Dome in Sunday's game, including the first hit by Lin Chen-fei (林成飛), the first extra-base hit by Namoh Iyang, the first win by Hsu, just to name a few.
Taiwan will next take on Palestine and Hong Kong at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively,
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