KIA Tigers infielder Ryu Ji-hyeok led the team’s weekend sweep with a perfect performance in the leadoff spot.
On June 10 against the Doosan Bears in Jamsil, Ryu started at first base and went 2-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored in the team’s 6-3 win.
On that day, Ryu made a sensible run in the first inning. Ryu led off the first inning with a single up the middle on a four-pitch 118 km/h curveball from opposing starter Choi Seung-yong.
When the next batter, Park Chan-ho, hit a grounder to third base, Ryu Ji-hyuk ran to second base and then straight to third. He aimed for the empty third base as the opposing third baseman, Heo Kyung-min, caught the ball and threw to first base. The result was perfect. First baseman Yang Seok-hwan caught the ball and threw to third, but it was difficult to catch Ryu Ji-hyuk, who had gotten off to an early start.
As a result, Ryu Ji-hyuk’s sensible bunt led to the first run. The next batter, Socrates, hit a grounder to the shortstop, allowing Ryu to score from third base to take the lead.
Ryu again came through in the top of the fifth inning. With the score tied at 3-3 in the top of the fifth, Ryu again led off with a single to left field on a 130 km/h slider from Choi Seung-yong.
After advancing to second on a Socrates single, Ryu scored on Choi Hyung-woo’s single to right to tie the game. A throwing error by the right fielder allowed Socrates to come home for the final run.
KIA secured the 6-3 victory with a six-inning, three-run quality start from starter Lee Yi-ri and a wedge hit by Choi Hyung-woo in the top of the ninth inning.
After the game, manager Kim Jong-kook said, “Lee Yi-ri got into trouble in the bottom of the third inning, but he did a good job as a starting pitcher by giving us a quality start. Today, like yesterday, the pitching staff of Kim Yoo-shin, Park Joon-pyo, and Jang Hyun-sik pitched scoreless innings to secure the win.”
“In the batting lineup, Ryu Ji-hyeok continued to hit and run well today as the leadoff hitter after yesterday’s game. After the team came back in the bottom of the third inning, Byun Woo-hyuk immediately hit the tying run, showing active offense from the bottom of the order. Choi Hyung-woo also delivered the game-winning hit and wedge hit like a center fielder, and we were able to win the game.”
Ryu Ji-hyuk, who had a perfect game in the leadoff spot, explained the situation in the first inning: “When I got to second base and (Heo) saw my brother, he didn’t look at me at all, so I just let it go to third base and ran right away. I didn’t plan it, I just improvised. In that short moment, I thought I could make it to third base. I’m glad I did because it led to the winning run,” he said.
When I met Ryu Ji-hyuk after the game, he had a glazed look in his eye. After suffering a collarbone injury during the home sweep in the midweek series, Ryu has been sprinting and hustling despite his physical condition.
“I feel like I have a black eye because I’m stressed out because baseball isn’t going well (laughs). I didn’t get any hits in the midweek series, so I was really stressed out. Hitting has a cycle, and it’s all about how much you can close the gap. I have a big gap, and it’s important to close it. In the field and at the plate, I try to play my best regardless of my physical condition.”
Recently, Choi Hyung-woo and Socrates, who have been deployed in the center field, have been hitting at their peak. If the table-setters run smoothly, KIA’s run production can be significantly improved. Coach Kim is also excited about the synergy between the center fielders and the table setters.
“Definitely, Socrates and (Choi) Hyung-woo are hitting well, so I’m focusing on getting on base the most. I desperately want to come out alive, because if you come out alive, you always come home (laughs). I like the first pitch, but I don’t intentionally hold it back. It’s not my ball, so I don’t hit it, but I’m in a position to hit it from the first pitch.”스포츠토토
It’s the strength of his family that keeps him going, even under such trying circumstances. After two sons, his youngest daughter is the perfect antidote to fatigue.
“My family gives me a lot of strength,” he says. I have two sons, but recently I’ve been enjoying seeing my youngest daughter (laughs). I don’t have the confidence to give her away in the future,” he smiles brightly.