“I want to strike out with a fastball in an international competition, that’s my dream.”

She threw so many balls to fulfil her dreams that she was completely exhausted, but she didn’t care, because she wanted to seize the moment when it might come again.

The opportunity finally came. I was tasked with saving the day in a crucial international match. In the last inning, I threw too hard and my muscles freaked out. My side muscles hurt, but I signalled to the dugout that I was going to finish it. Three balls, two strikes. I threw it through clenched teeth.스포츠토토

When I induced the batter to swing at my most confident high fastball and struck out to end the game, I broke down and sobbed. She was so happy that she couldn’t stop crying, and she created another memorable moment in her life. This is the story of Lee Ji-sook, 22, a pitcher for the Korean women’s national baseball team.

Lee Ji-sook pitched three innings of two-run relief against the Philippines in the final group game of the 2023 Asian Cup (BFA) in Hong Kong on Monday (28 June) to earn a save. He struck out two, including the final out.

The score was only four runs, and there were runners on second and third. Full count here. One bad pitch could have given up a hit or a walk, which could have turned the tide. On the other hand, a strike and the game is over.

The result is a happy ending. Lee Ji-sook, still shaken, said, “‘It’s over. It’s over. We’re going to the world championships’ was all I could think about. I was just in tears thinking that we could be together a little longer,” she smiled. With the win over the Philippines, the team qualified for the World Baseball Classic in Japan and Canada in August and September.

After being told by the coaching staff to prepare for the game, Lee Ji-sook watched videos of the Philippines’ previous games and analysed their batters. She stayed up late at night talking to the national pitching coach, Lee Dong-hyun, about the Philippines’ batters’ tendencies and strategising.

After the game, Lee said, “(Lee) Ji-sook was talking to me yesterday and she said, ‘Coach, I’m not afraid. She had prepared so well. She went above and beyond her role today, so I’m just grateful to her.”

The coach added that Jisook’s strengths include “guts. She doesn’t shy away from competition.” Lee Ji-sook pitched the fifth inning with runners on first and third and allowed only one run (unearned) in a bases-loaded situation. It was a huge win. It was the biggest chance of the game for the Philippines, but Lee saved it. She didn’t back down in the face of a big inning and stood her ground.

She pitched three shutout innings. For women’s baseball, which is played in social clubs, three innings is a very long inning. “I’ve never pitched three innings before. So I had to use my mental strength,” she laughed. In the top of the seventh inning, Lee strained a muscle in her side and held her back, but she fought back mentally and earned the save.

Lee Ji-sook once said, “I want the national team to do well and create a platform for girls’ baseball dreams to grow,” and she has done that with her own hands. Lee and her team will now face Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong in the Asian Cup Super Round. The goal is to defeat them and come home with a medal.

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