(Asiad) S. Korean batters caught by very low speed of Hong Kong pitchers

South Korea baseball team manager Ryu Joong-il said Sunday his batters struggled to adjust to very slow pitches of Hong Kong players, which they have never experienced in their domestic professional baseball league, at their Asian Games opener.

"In the first few innings, batters seemed to be quite nervous, and they lost their timing on slow balls," Ryu told reporters at the mixed zone. "But Kim Hye-seong broke that deadlock in the fourth."

South Korea routed Hong Kong 10-0 in the first Group B game at Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Centre in Shaoxing, southeast of the main host city, Hangzhou, during the 19th Asian Games in China.

In the hunt for its fourth consecutive gold, the team of under-24 players from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) pro league was widely expected to pull off an easy win over Hong Kong, which sent a team of amateur baseball players to the continental event.

Although it won the game on a mercy rule in the bottom eighth, South Korea held a close 1-0 lead in the first three innings. Hitters blew multiple scoring chances, struggling to get on with slow pitches by Hong Kong starter Leung Chung Hei and reliever Lee Ho Chi, who covered the first three innings.

Their pitch speed hovered around 100 kilometers per hour, some 30-40 kph slower than those of pitchers in the KBO.

In the fourth, South Korea added two runs on Kim Hye-seong's two-RBI double with the bases loaded.

Ryu said pitch speeds of Hong Kong's relief pitchers were faster than the starter Leung and that helped Korean batters gain their batting rhythm.

"We had hard first innings due to the slow pitches," he said. "Against subsequent pitchers, our batters adjusted to the speed better and better."

In Monday's Group B game against Chinese Taipei, regarded as the biggest rival in the group en route to South Korea's gold medal, the manager expected the faster pitch speed will help his players regain their swinging tempo.

"We predict a left-hander will start for Chinese Taipei tomorrow. We will face faster pitches than today, and we should get prepared well for them," he said. "There will be no change in the lineup for tomorrow."

Slugger Roh Si-hwan, who is leading the home run race with 31 homers in the KBO, said he had experienced such low pitch speed when he was a middle school player.

"Those slow balls were so unfamiliar, and we had difficulty getting used to the speed," the 22-year-old slugger said. "We were depressed in the early innings, but we did not give up and overcame it in the end."

Source: Yonhap News Agency