Korea sets Classic record for runs scored in win over China

March 13th, 2023

TOKYO -- The Korean hitters took out their frustration from a difficult week -- all in one night.

Unfortunately for Team China, it happened when their pitchers were on the mound.

Korea bunted, blooped and then blasted their way to a 22-2 mercy-rule victory in the final game of Pool B at the Tokyo Dome on Monday. The 22 runs were four more than the previous World Baseball Classic record. The previous record belonged to Japan (18 vs. China in 2006 Classic) and Canada (18 vs. Great Britain in Sunday's 18-8 win).

After Australia beat the Czech Republic, 8-3, earlier in the day, Korea knew there was no way to advance to the quarterfinals. While a win was simply for pride, a loss would result in a three-way tie for third and a slight chance that the nation would need to qualify for the 2026 tournament.

Instead, Korea made sure there was no reason to worry, putting up two in the first, two in the second, an eight-spot in the third, six more in the fourth and four in the fifth to wrap up its final contest early.

"We couldn't go through the quarterfinals, but no matter what the result is, our role is to play hard until the last [out], so we did," said manager Kang-Chul Lee.

Ha-Seong Kim capped off the record performance with his third homer in two days. It was also Korea’s second grand slam in as many innings, after Kunwoo Park had made it 18-2 with a grand slam of his own in the fourth.

Unsurprisingly, the list of heroes on offense for Korea was lengthy.

Superstar Jung-Hoo Lee had two hits and three RBIs, while Kunwoo Park added five RBIs and Hyesong Kim tacked on another three as well. In all, the team picked up a remarkable 20 hits in five innings -- with only the two slams and a double going for extra bases

"A lot of fans, all the nation in Korea, everybody is expecting us to play well," Jung-Hoo Lee said. "We are sorry that we couldn't play well, including me. ... We are a bit behind from the top of the world, but that's something we learned from the tournament. In the future, for the 2026 WBC, we would like to start preparing for the future, for the next tournament."

All of this happened with one notable absence for Korea in Monday’s lineup: Cardinals star Tommy Edman. Kang-Chul Lee said after the game that Edman had slight pain in the left side of his glute.

"It's not serious, but that's why we [couldn't] let him play today," Kang-Chul Lee said. "Along [with] having him on our roster, we didn't have any problems. He's got great communication with our teammates."

Not only does the Korean victory ensure that China (0-4) finishes at the bottom of the pool, but it means that the Czech Republic automatically qualifies for the 2026 World Baseball Classic. China will now need to qualify for the tournament for the first time in program history.

"This team has improved dramatically like I said from Day 1 in China to now, and ... we need to keep improving, and the players realize that," said China manager Dean Treanor. "They know by looking across the way at the other teams that except for tonight, we've competed very, very well."

While China may not have won a game in the tournament, it kept its games close against Japan and the Czech Republic, and Treanor saw reason to be hopeful for the program’s future.

"I know it's an 0-4 record. That does not tell the story. That's not the story of Team China. It's not the story of these players," Treanor said. "This is the most excitement for the WBC. This is by far the most excitement that really, globally, is for the WBC, and you see it with the attendance here, the players that are involved. I mean, it's just a great experience. Like I said, but everyone needs to know that 0-4 does not say who we are."