NC advances to PO for first time in 6 years with 3-game sweep…KT Nawara

The NC Dinos, ranked fourth in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) regular season, advanced to the playoffs (best-of-five, best-of-three) for the first time in six years after defeating last year’s unified champion SSG Landers.

NC outlasted SSG 7-6 in the third game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Postseason Semifinals (best-of-five) at NC Park in Changwon, Gyeongnam on Friday to punch their ticket to the PO in Suwon with a three-game sweep.

NC will take on regular-season runner-up KT WIZ in the first round of the PO on April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Katwiz Park in Suwon.

After a four-game winning streak in fall baseball this year, including a wild-card deciding game against the Doosan Bears, NC made it through the semifinals with an “upset” (uprising of a lower seed).

Combined with this year, NC is only the second team in the history of the best-of-five Semifinals to win three games in a best-of-three format, joining the Samsung Lions in 2008.

SSG, who finished third in the regular season and directly qualified for the semi-preseason, was swept in three games by NC after giving up an early lead.

After SSG missed a chance to put runners on second and third in the top of the first inning with singles by Choo Shin-soo and Han Yoo-seom, NC capitalized on the opportunity in the bottom of the first.

With runners on first and second after back-to-back singles by Son Asub and Park Min-woo, Park Gun-woo broke the deadlock with a grounder to third base. They were lucky it wasn’t a triple.

NC’s No. 4 hitter, Jason Martin, rekindled the flames with a single to right, sending Park to third, and then stole second base in the ensuing Kwon Hee-dong at-bat to open the second scoring opportunity.

Kwon Hee-dong sent both runners home with a single to right field, sending the crowd into celebration.

Seo Ho-cheol followed with a double to left-center field to bring home Kwon Hee-dong.

After scoring three runs in the first inning, NC took the lead in both the first and third games of the semifinals.

SSG answered right back in the top of the second.

Back-to-back singles by Kim Sung-hyun and Oh Tae-gon loaded the bases with two outs and a walk to Choo Shin-soo.

NC left-hander Tanner Tully, whose fastball was hovering in the low 90s and his slider lacked power, had little to throw.

Guillermo Herridia singled up the middle to score SSG’s first run.

In the next at-bat, SSG’s “Home Run Factory” Choi pulled a weak fastball from Tanner over the left field fence for a grand slam to keep his team alive.

With his four hits, Choi passed Hong Seong-heon (formerly of the Doosan Bears) for the all-time postseason RBI record (43) and moved within one of Doosan’s all-time leader Lee Seung-yeop (14) with 13 home runs in fall ball.

SSG’s 5-3 lead was short-lived.

In the bottom of the second inning, NC put runners on first and second with a leadoff single by Do Tae-hoon and a walk by Park Min-woo to pull SSG starter Oh Won-seok from the mound.

SSG right-handed veteran reliever Noh Kyung-eun came in to put out the fire, but he gave up a single to left field to Park Gun-woo.

NC Martin exploded for a three-run homer to cut the lead back to 7-5, pulling in Noh’s first-pitch slider that came in just short.

The game lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes in the second inning.

After missing out on a bases-loaded opportunity in the third inning due to a bad throw from NC’s second pitcher Lee Jae-hak, SSG cut the deficit to 6-7 in the fourth inning when No. 4 hitter Han Yoo-seom hit a two-run double to left-center field that hit the top of the fence.

No more runs were scored after that as both teams went to the bullpen.

After Lee Jae-hak was hit on the back of the right hand by a straight hit from SSG Oh Tae-gon in the fifth inning, left-hander Kim Young-gyu pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings.

SSG foreign left-hander Kirk McCarty, making his first appearance on the mound in over a month due to a sore right side, allowed a runner to reach third base for the second straight inning in the fourth before handing the baton over to Ko Hyo-jun in the sixth.

The final blow came in the top of the seventh inning.

With runners on first and second with two outs, SSG sent out pinch-hitter Choi Joo-hwan, and NC responded with left-hander Lim Jung-ho.

SSG then switched back to right-hander Kang Jin-sung, hoping to tie the game, but Kang was caught on a fly ball to right field, ending their hopes of a tie.

In the ninth inning, NC closer Lee Yong-chan retired the next three batters to seal the win with a thrilling one-run save.

Kim Young-kyu, who earned one save and two holds in three Semi-Po games, was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) after sweeping 37 of the 78 votes cast by the journalists, earning a cash prize of 2 million won. 파워볼분석

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