South Korea’s baseball team won its fourth consecutive title with a 2-0 victory over Chinese Taipei in the final of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games on Sunday, marking a new milestone in the career of national team manager Ryu Jung-il .Ryu became the first baseball coach to win two Asian Games titles. Liu popped the championship champagne for the first time as a national team manager after defeating Chinese Taipei in Incheon 2014.Nine years later, Ryu was washed by his players again. The first time Korean baseball assembled a dream team of professionals and amateurs was at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok. Joo Sung-ro, then the head coach of Inha University, led the Dream Team to its first podium finish at the Asian Games. Since then, Kim In-sung (then head coach of the Doosan Bears) in Busan in 2002, Cho Bum-hyun (then head coach of the KIA Tigers) in Guangzhou in 2010, and Sun Dong-yeol in Jakarta-Palembang in 2018 have led their respective national teams to victory at the Asian Games. While Ryu toasted to the prime of his coaching career at Incheon in 2014, his second victory was even more special as he led a team of players under the age of 25 and in their fourth year of professional competition, raising hopes for a resurgence in Korean baseball, which had fallen into a downward spiral at the international level. The team that competed in the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang tournament was mired in controversy over allegations that some players were selected based on their military service benefits rather than their talent, which led to a lack of fairness. The team’s coach, Sun Dong-yeol, who was hailed as a “national treasure pitcher” by the baseball community, was called to testify before the National Assembly’s National Security Audit Committee in a “witch hunt” by some .In an effort to regain the trust of fans, the KBO governing body and its 10 professional clubs promised that the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games would feature a roster of players aged 24 or younger and in their third year of professional baseball, with three wild cards of any age When the Asian Games were postponed for a year due to the worsening coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, he raised the eligibility threshold by one year, but kept the promise of selecting Korean baseball prospects .Ryu, who switched to the national team uniform after stepping down as manager of the LG Twins, took the helm in a difficult situation, with the KBO secretariat and 10 professional clubs placing “restrictions” on player selection. He also faces the pressure of delivering results at a time when South Korean baseball’s international competitiveness has plummeted, including a fourth-place finish at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a first-round exit at the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC).Ryu wanted to make sure he had the right players to lead the Korean baseball team to a fourth consecutive gold medal, so he put a lot of thought into the selection process before boarding the plane to Hangzhou. After thoroughly vetting players with the KBO’s Power Enhancement Committee, he selected the 24 members of the roster that will be the centerpiece of the team’s hopes at the Asian Games. The selection process lasted until the last minute, as center fielder Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes) and wild card pitcher Koo Chang-mo (NC Dinos) were unable to board the Ryu Joong-il due to injuries. The decision to replace left-handed pitcher Lee Yi-ri (KIA Tigers) with a blistered finger is still being debated, but the controversy is expected to die down after the replacement, right-handed batsman Yoon Dong-hee (Lotte Giants), exceeded expectations and helped the team win the gold medal .Ryu’s team overcame both the unexpected back problems of pitcher Kwak Bin (Doosan Bears) and the stumbling block of a shock loss to Chinese Taipei in the group stage to sweep Japan and China in the super rounds to give Taiwan a chance to avenge the loss, and then repaid the debt in style with a dominant performance on the mound in the final. Ryu, who usually favors power pitchers who throw fast, hard balls, had the last laugh in the final with a quartet of 150-kilometer-per-hour fastball pitchers – Moon Dong-ju (Hanwha Eagles), Choi Ji-min (KIA Tigers), 스포츠토토 Park Young-hyun (KT Wiz) and Ko Woo-seok (LG Twins) – who scattered five hits and held the Taiwanese bats to zero runs.

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