One preliminary round loss at the Asian Games, even a disheartening one at that, wasn't enough to take inner Yogi Berra out of South Korean infielder Roh Si-hwan.
South Korea suffered a 4-0 loss to Chinese Taipei in the teams' second Group B game at Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Centre in Shaoxing, southeast of the main host city, Hangzhou. It doesn't affect South Korea's chances of winning its fourth consecutive gold medal in mathematical terms, but it might have planted some seeds of doubt in the minds of South Korean players.
Roh probably isn't one of them.
"It's not over until it's over in baseball," Roh said, taking a page out of Berra's famous book of quotes. "You just never know in baseball. We will keep doing our best until the end."
Even with the loss, South Korea is still favored to advance to the Super Round, where games will start counting. South Korea will have to beat both China and Japan, its two likely opponents there, to set up a potential gold medal match against Chinese Taipei.
"I think all of our remaining games are must-win games," Roh said. "We have to win them to give ourselves a chance to meet Chinese Taipei again and beat them then."
Roh had one of just six hits South Korea managed against three Chinese Taipei pitchers, with starter Lin Yu-Min tossing six strong innings.
"We prepared hard for this game, but their pitchers really pitched well today," Roh said. "They all threw hard and had great control. They didn't make many mistakes, and it made life tough on us."
Roh, who leads the Korea Baseball Organization this season with 31 home runs, said some nerves of playing in international games have taken their toll. South Korea has brought a mostly under-24 squad, with a self-imposed age limit in place to give young players an early exposure to international play.
"Their fastballs had a lot of life to them," the 22-year-old said. "And in moments when we were thinking fastballs, they came at us with breaking balls. I thought they came prepared for us."
This loss is the latest black eye to the South Korean national baseball program, which suffered an early exit from the World Baseball Classic this spring and finished out of medals at the Olympics two years ago. But Roh argued that South Korean baseball isn't in crisis mode just yet.
"Sometimes you lose like we did today, but we haven't been eliminated from the tournament," Roh said. "We will still have our opportunities, and we will try to prove that we can still be competitive in international baseball."
One of South Korea's few bright spots in the loss was the play of Yoon Dong-hee, who batted 3-for-4. The 20-year-old said he tried to concentrate extra hard because he was nervous about playing in his first international competition.
"I had a few hits today, but I am just disappointed that we lost," Yoon said. "We'll try to get our revenge the next time we meet."
Source: Yonhap News Agency