“I’m going to trust my teammates and play with the idea that once we lose, it’s over.”
The Doosan Bears rallied around their captain, Heo Kyung-min, and dreamed of upsetting the KBO’s first-ever wild card deciding game. But the dream was not to be. Doosan was eliminated from the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Postseason with a 9-14 come-from-behind loss to the NC Dinos in the first round of the wild-card deciding game at Changwon NC Park on April 19.
Doosan entered the wild-card game in fifth place with one loss. This is to give the fourth-place team an advantage. In a best-of-two series, the impact of one loss is significant. We only need to look at history to see that the fifth-place team has never advanced to the semifinals since the wild-card game was introduced in 2015. Nine times before this year, the fourth-place team punched its ticket to the semifinals.메이저놀이터
Still, Doosan has fall in its DNA, so we were hoping for a first-ever Wild Card Series upset. Doosan has plenty of fall baseball experience. Last year, despite finishing in ninth place, the team became the first KBO club to compete in fall baseball for seven consecutive years from 2015 to 2021. With the likes of Heo Kyung-min, Jeong Soo-bin, Kim Jae-ho, Yang Yang-ji, and Kim Jae-hwan, who were the mainstays of the golden era, still on the roster, the team has a good chance of breaking the 0% odds.
The players vowed to do their best as much as they could. Heo Kyung-min said, “A lot of people talk about the 0% (chance of making the semifinals), but I don’t think it’s going to be 0% forever, but I think one day a team will break it, and I’m going to do my best to be that team. One loss is really big in fall baseball, so honestly, if we lose, we’re done. It’s the first time I’ve been ranked fifth, so we’ll see, but I’m going to trust my teammates and play with the idea that it’s over once we lose.”
Jung Soo-bin, the 2015 Korean Series MVP, said, “If you work hard in each game, you will have another chance. If we win today (Nov. 19), there will be another tomorrow. Last year, we couldn’t play fall baseball because we were at the bottom of the standings, but this year we took a year off and played fall baseball. We have a lot of experience in fall baseball, and we also have new players, but I think we have to believe in our team and say the word ‘miracle’ again.”
“I hope (Kwak) Bin-yi can block well. I hope we have fun, and I hope we do our best even if we lose one game. I don’t know how far we can go, but I hope we can enjoy each game and take it as an experience and have a good season next year so that we can go to the Korean Series.”
Veteran Kim Jae-ho said, “I think I shouldn’t feel any pressure, and when I feel pressure, I often get stiff in the game. I hope he’s not just trying to do a little bit better, but just going in with the idea that when he’s on defense, he’s just going to catch and make an out, and when he’s at bat, he’s just going to see the ball and make a strike. That’s what I’m going to do,” he said, encouraging his juniors.
But the miracle Doosan was hoping for didn’t happen. The first inning went well. In the first inning, Kim Jae-ho singled and Jose Rojas doubled to put runners on second and third, and when Yang Yang-ji retired on a grounder to shortstop, Kim Jae-ho scored to give Doosan a 1-0 lead. In the top of the second, Kim In-tae made it 2-0 with an RBI single through the right side of the infield. In the top of the third, Rojas extended the lead to 3-0 with a solo shot to right field.
It was up to Kwak-Bin Kwak, the first starter of the postseason, to get out of the jam. In the bottom of the fourth inning, he gave up a walk to Park Gun-woo, a single to Kwon Hee-dong, and a walk to Kim Joo-won to load the bases. Seo Ho-cheol then gave up a single to left to make it 3-4. The next batter, Kim Hyung-joon, hit a solo shot to left field to make it 3-5, and the momentum shifted completely to NC.
As expected, Doosan did not give up until the end. In the top of the fifth, Kim Jae-ho walked and Kim Jae-hwan singled to put runners on first and second with nobody out, and Yang Ji-hak singled up the middle to reliever Lee Jae-hak to make it 4-5. With runners on second and third, Kang Seung-ho grounded out to the second baseman, allowing Kim Jae-hwan to score from third to tie the game at 5-5.
With the game tied at 5-5, a single error in the bottom of the fifth inning was the difference between victory and defeat. Lee Young-ha induced a fly ball to leadoff hitter Jason Martin, and it was an ordinary ball that right fielder Kim Tae-geun could catch, but Kang Seung-ho tried to force the play and lost the ball as the two overlapped. The second baseman made a bad throw to first. Lee Young-ha made it to second and third, but Seo Ho-cheol made a wild pitch at the plate and gave up a run to make it 5-6.
In the bottom of the seventh, the bases were loaded. Kim Kang-ryul gave up a single to Park Gun-woo and a walk to Kwon Hee-dong, putting runners on first and second. Here, Doosan pulled out Chung Chul-won. It was a gesture of determination, but the result was disastrous. Chung gave up a single to Kim Joo-won to put runners on first and second, and a double to Seo Ho-chul to make it 5-8. With a three-run deficit, even a single run in the top of the eighth was not enough to turn the tide in favor of NC.
By the end of the eighth inning, there was no turning back as Hong collapsed with six runs in ⅔ of an inning. However, the team did not give up until the top of the ninth inning and scored three more runs with RBI singles by Park Ji-hoon and Jeong Soo-bin, making the fans who traveled to Changwon a little less disappointed.