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SK Wyverns win 1st baseball championship in 8 years

These are the words that have not been written, uttered or heard since 2010: The SK Wyverns are the champions of South Korean baseball.

The Wyverns captured the 2018 Korean Series over the Doosan Bears, thanks to a 5-4 victory in 13 innings in Game 6 on Monday at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.


Korean Series MVP Han Dong-min delivered the game-winning solo home run in the top of the 13th inning, and No. 1 starter Kim Kwang-hyun came on in the bottom 13th to close out the victory on two days' rest.

The Wyverns frittered away a 3-0 lead by giving up three in the sixth and another in the eighth, but slugger Choi Jeong evened the score with a solo shot in the top of the ninth.

Then Han Dong-min, who sent the Wyverns to the Korean Series with a walk-off home run in Game 5 of the previous playoff series, again played the hero, with his towering shot off Doosan reliever Yoo Hee-kwan with two outs in the 13th.

The Wyverns entered the series as the underdogs, having finished 14.5 games behind the Bears in second place in the regular season. That the Wyverns split the season series with the Bears at 8-8 was conveniently forgotten, and many were ready to anoint the Bears the champions before the Korean Series even began.

But the Wyverns, who had to play an extra round in the postseason, outpitched and outhit the favored opponents from start to finish.

The championship is a perfect sendoff for the Wyverns' manager, Trey Hillman, who won't be returning to the dugout next year after deciding to spend more time with his ailing parents in the United States.

Hillman is the first manager to have won a championship in South Korea and Japan, having earlier guided Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters to the Japan Series title in 2006.

The Wyverns got on the board first in the top of the first, though they only managed one run in a bases-loaded opportunity with nobody out.

Doosan starter Lee Yong-chan walked the first three batters he faced to load the bases. And the Wyverns' lone run came on a groundout by Jamie Romak. Park Jung-kwon hit a shallow fly to center, not deep enough for Han Dong-min to score from third. Lee Jae-won then bounced one to second for the final out.

The Wyverns missed another opportunity to pad their lead in the second inning. Jung Eui-yoon chased Lee Yong-chan from the game with a double to start that inning, but he was stranded there as new pitcher Lee Young-ha retired the next three batters.

Lee had a three-up, three-down second inning and sat down the first two batters of the third inning, before Jung Eui-yoon hit a single. Then No. 8 hitter Kang Seung-ho swung on the first pitch slider for his first Korean Series home run to deep left field and gave the Wyverns a 3-0 cushion.

But the Bears erased that deficit in a hurry in the bottom sixth. SK starter Merrill Kelly no-hit the Bears through 5 1/3 innings, before getting himself into trouble by hitting Heo Kyoung-min and walking Jung Soo-bin.

That gave the Bears a man in scoring position for the first time in the game, and they made it count. Choi Joo-hwan knocked in the team's first run with a double down the left field line, raising his team-leading RBI total to seven.

Then Yang Eui-ji swung on the first pitch changeup and lined it up the middle for a game-tying, two-run single.

The Wyverns threatened in the top seventh, when they had two men on with two outs. But cleanup Jamie Romak went down swinging against Doosan closer Ham Deok-ju, who came on with one out in the inning.

The Wyverns nearly went ahead in the top eighth, but the Bears foiled that bid with a fine defensive play.

With two outs and men at first and second, Kim Sung-hyun dumped a single to center. Speedy Kim Jae-hyun came charging home from second, but center Jung Soo-bin made a throw that bounced toward the third base side, and catcher Yang Eui-ji tagged Kim on his leg just before the runner touched the plate.

Kim was initially called safe but the Bears won the video challenge to overturn it.

And the Wyverns paid dearly for their series of missed opportunities. The Bears finally went ahead in the bottom eighth.

SK reliever Kim Tae-hoon, who hadn't allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings in the series before Monday, showed some cracks in that fateful inning. After issuing a one-out walk, Kim gave up a single to Choi Joo-hwan, and the Bears had the runners at the corners.

Facing new pitcher Jung Young-il, Yang Eui-ji sent a deep fly to center field for a go-ahead sacrifice fly.

The Bears summoned their No. 1 starter, Josh Lindblom, to close out the game on two days' rest. Lindblom, who threw 114 pitches in a Game 4 victory last Friday, looked dominant in striking out the first two batters in the ninth.

But Choi Jeong, down to the final strike, swung on a 2-2 forkball that hung over the middle of the plate and drove it into the left field seats to tie the score at 4-4.

Both teams failed to cash in with men in scoring position early in extra innings.

The Bears put two men aboard with two outs in the bottom 10th, but Jo Soo-haeng struck out swinging against Kim Taek-hyeong after a nine-pitch battle.

In the top 11th, the Wyverns had the bases loaded with two outs and reliever Lee Hyun-seung struggling to find the zone. But on a

3-1 count, Jamie Romak swung on a high fastball and popped out to second.

The Bears had the winning run at third with two outs in the bottom 11th, but the best Ryu Ji-hyuk could do was to ground out to second base.

In the top 12th, the Wyverns wasted a one-out single by Lee Jae-won.

But in the top 13th, they didn't need a base runner. With two outs against new Doosan pitcher Yoo Hee-kwan, Han Dong-min drove the first pitch fastball deep into the seats in the right-center, putting the Wyverns up for good at 5-4.

It was Kim Kwang-hyun's turn to put the icing on the cake.

After getting a line drive out off the bat of pinch hitter Baek Min-gi, Kim struck out the next two batters for the championship. (Yonhap)