“It won’t be easy with a 140 km fastball”

“It won’t be easy to see how he throws a fastball at 140km/h so well, but it’s really impressive.”

Kiwoom Heroes coach Hong Won-ki (50) admired and appreciated the gutsy pitching of Lee Myeong-jong (21), who was in his second year of professional debut.

Kiwoom won 7-6 against Lotte in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League regular season home game held at Gocheok Sky Dome in Guro-gu, Seoul on the 20th. As a result, Kiwoom, who recorded 46 wins, 3 draws and 64 losses, maintained a gap of 1.5 games with Samsung in 9th place.

It was a game in which victory could not be easily guaranteed. This is because Kiwoom put up rookie Oh Sang-won as the first pitcher in the absence of existing starting pitchers, while Lotte counterattacked with native ace Park Se-woong. In fact, Kiwoom was pushed back in the starting fight as Oh Sang-won of Gyeonggi-do scored 3 runs in 1⅔ innings and Park Se-woong scored 3 runs in 6 innings (1 ERA). But he wasn’t pushed back in the bullpen fight. Ha Young-min ended the two-out bases loaded crisis created by Oh Sang-won with four sliders, and Park Seung-ju and Moon Seong-hyun, who took the mound afterwards, cleared two innings with no runs.

The biggest crisis came at the beginning of the 8th inning, when Kiwoom led 6-4. On the mound, Kim Jae-woong got a straight walk from Jeong-hoon, a right-middle double from Jeong Bo-geun, and a left-handed hit from Bae Young-bin, leading to a 1-point lead without an out count. In the desperate crisis of 1st and 3rd base, coach Hong Won-ki’s choice was Lee Myung-jong. Against pinch hitter Jeon Jun-woo, Lee Myung-jong induced a weak ground ball in front of the shortstop and made one out. In the meantime, the runner on third bases home and the score is tied 6-6.

Lee Myeong-jong was resolute in spite of the regrettable loss. He struck the first pitch against Kim Min-seok and got an advantageous ball count with 2S1B. Kim Min-seok’s bat split the air with a 139 km/h fastball that flowed outside the top of the strike zone on the 6th pitch. On this day, he also scored an easy first-ball strike against Lee Jeong-hoon, who was recording a batting average of 40% for the season with 3 hits in 4 at-bats. He once again caught another strike with the slider, and this time also made a ball floating in left field with a 139km/h fastball. It was the moment when the crisis of 1st and 3rd base ended with one run.메이저놀이터

In the following bottom of the 8th inning, Kiwoom’s batting line scored a push with a ball that hit Kim Dong-heon’s body in a chance with bases loaded, and after keeping this score to the end, he won 8-7. Naturally, Lee Myung-jong took his 5th win of the season.

Lee Myeong-jong, who graduated from Seokgyo Elementary School, Segwang Middle School, and Segwangwang, is a pitcher in the second year nominated by Kiwoom with the 56th total in the 2nd round of the 2022 rookie draft. His average fastball velocity is only 140.1 km per hour based on Stat Tees, a Korean baseball statistics site, but he has already won 10 career wins (4 wins in 2022, 5 wins in 2023) by pitching with guts in every crisis.

Before the game on the 20th, only Moon Dong-ju (20, Hanwha Eagles) had a total of 9 wins or more over the past two years during the 2022 draft, but Lee Myung-jong stood shoulder to shoulder with this victory. Moon Dong-joo’s 9 wins, which plays the role of an ace by throwing 160 km per hour, is also special, but Lee Myeong-jong’s 9 wins were also meaningful as they were achieved in a situation where it was difficult to even meet the requirements for a winning pitcher.

Lee Myung-jong’s process of accumulating victories was not always easy. This year alone, 4 out of 5 wins were in a close game where the team was losing or within 1 point. On May 28, when he reported his first win of the season, against Gocheok Lotte, Kiwoom came up at the beginning of the 7th inning with 1-5 behind, and was responsible for 1⅔ innings without a run. On June 17, against Hanwha in Daejeon, the two teams faced each other 5-5 safely and took the mound at 1st and 3rd base, blocked the crisis with 1 run, and achieved 3 wins of the season thanks to the belated strikeout. The match against Gwangju KIA on June 28, when they won their 4th win, was also not easy. In the top of the 10th inning, where both teams faced each other 5-5, Choi Won-joon, 2nd, Lee Woo-seong, 3rd, and Na Seong-beom, 4th, were eliminated in 9 pitches.

The ball was not as fast as the seniors on the team, and his control was not superior. However, the bold mindset he has developed since high school has made him the first card that comes to mind whenever the team faces a crisis. In an interview with Star News last month, Lee Myeong-jong said, “I’m rather comfortable in a situation where the score is tight and the score gap is small. At that time, not only the pitcher but also the hitter get nervous. It’s my personal opinion, but the swing and approach are different for hitters than when they have time to spare.” He said, “For batters, my ball is not usually that difficult to hit. I am in a situation where I have to play the game with my first ball, but in a close game, I can see the nervousness of the batters’ faces, so I feel more confident.”

Being confident in a crisis situation is easier said than done. In order to put his promise into practice, it was possible because of his hidden efforts, such as maintaining his physical strength by constantly doing weight training and checking his ball with seniors every day to determine the deciding ball for the day. In this way, Lee Myung-jong once again rescued the team from a crisis and was reborn as a player worthy of the team’s name, Heroes.

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