Florida League edges Korea in wild series opener

Seong-hun Kim rips a drive in the series opener between the Florida Collegiate Summer League and the Korean National Collegiate Team.

Seong-hun Kim rips a drive in the series opener between the Florida Collegiate Summer League and the Korean National Collegiate Team.

Isaac Babcock

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When some of America’s best pro baseball prospects invited Korea’s college-level all-star team to play a five game series, they couldn’t have imagined how close the first game would end. Only as the last fly ball landed deep in center field was anything certain in the 1-0 win for America.

“We knew these pitchers were the best,” Florida Collegiate Summer League president Rob Sitz said of the teams’ starters. Five innings later, America’s Devin Pellien and South Korea’s Seong-moo Hong were both still in the ballgame, throwing scoreless starts that rang up strong numbers.

Hong would go on to throw an eight-strikeout, six-inning shutout before handing the ball over. Pellien would strike out four in five innings, giving up six hits but never surrendering a run. The American team wouldn’t surrender a run all night, though that came down to a nail-biting finish with Korea’s lead runner crossing the plate before the last out was made in the bottom of the ninth.

Seventeen runners would be left on base in the game, in which either team put a runner on board in nearly every inning, but struggled to score.

In an especially bizarre play, right fielder Yup Sa Gong led off the sixth inning with a single, watched a pickoff attempt sail into right field foul territory, rounded second and took third base, then watched yet another wild throw go past third base to the fence. He held up, which would prove a costly mistake when the next three batters went down in order to end the inning.

When the American team capitalized in the bottom of the eighth inning, it took an especially odd set of plays to make it happen. After Orlando Rivera led off the inning with a single and then stole second base, a pair of deep fly balls ended in outs, followed by a walk, and the inning was looking like it was about to end.

Seung-Hyeon Kim came in as a relief pitcher, proceeding to strike out Nate Ferrell seemingly to end the inning, but the ball went sailing to the backstop, turning into a wild moment with Ferrell racing to first base safely as the other two runners advanced. Three pitches later, a wild pitch sailed past the catcher and Rivera scored the game’s only run.

In the top of the ninth, in Korea’s last chance to score, pinch runner Jung-Ho Lee would race to third on a wild pitch with two outs, then cross the plate as Seong-hun Kim blasted a shot deep into center field, but the ball would fall into the glove of center fielder Tobias Moreno, ending the game.

In the game Korea’s Jin-ho Bae, hitting from eighth in the order, would be the big bat, going 3-for-4. Rivera led the Americans with a 2-for-4 effort and a stolen base thrown in.

The FCSL team will have a rematch against the Koreans in Sanford at 7 p.m. on Aug. 9. At 7 p.m. on Aug. 6 they play in DeLand. At 6 p.m. Aug. 8 and 5 p.m. Aug. 10 they play in Leesburg.