Lim Jong-chan hits first career walk-off hit to lead Hanwha to victory

“I think it felt good and exciting, and my goal is to do my best at every at-bat without stressing about the outcome.”

So said Lim Jong-chan, who hit his first career walk-off hit and led the Hanwha Eagles to their fifth straight win.

Hanwha, led by Choi Won-ho, defeated Lee Kang-cheol’s KT Wiz 3-2 in the home opener of the 2024 KBO Baseball League at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon on Monday. The win was the fifth in a row for the Pajuk, who improved to 5-1 on the season.

It was a standout performance from Lim Jong-chan, who started at sixth base and center field, as he came through in clutch fashion at crucial moments to secure the win for Hanwha.

After a double in the first inning, a grounder to shortstop in the fourth inning, and a strikeout in the seventh inning, Lim’s bat came alive in the ninth inning when the teams were tied 2-2. After a Jonathan Peraza double to left-center, a Chae Eun-sung walk, a Noh Si-hwan double and a strikeout of Ahn Chi-hong, Lim hit a 124-kilometer splitter off right-handed reliever Lee Sang-dong to left-center field for the game-winning hit. It was the end of Han’s five-game winning streak.

When asked after the game, Lim said, “It’s the first time I’ve ever hit (an out) while playing baseball. It feels good and exhilarating,” he said, adding that he was doused with water by his teammates after the game. “I thought it would be cool because I was playing, but it was colder than I thought. I hugged him tightly, but it was a bit nerve-wracking,” he said with a smile.

“In the first inning, the opposing pitcher threw a splitter, and I tried to hit it for a fastball, and it worked,” he said. “I realized that he was using it as his main weapon, so I came up with my own plan. I was confident from the first pitch and it worked out well. I thought it was a good pitch when I hit it, but when I saw the fielder running, I ran and thought it was over,” he said of his game-winning hit.

He hadn’t gotten a hit in his previous at-bat, which could have put more pressure on him. However, Lim said, “Being a hitter is a job where you fail more than you succeed. I didn’t give up because I didn’t hit (earlier). I tried to focus on what I could do with the same mindset as my first at-bat,” he said boldly.

Born in Cheongju, North Korea, Lim Jong-chan is a right-handed hitting outfielder with a lot of potential. He was drafted by Hanwha with the 28th overall pick in the third round of the 2020 KBO Draft and completed his military service in 2022-2023 as a recruit training assistant for the 7th Infantry Division in Gangwon Province. Up until last year, his professional stats were .188 (55 hits in 322 at-bats) with four home runs and 26 RBIs in 114 games.

This year, Lim has been even better. He went 1-for-3 with a home run and one RBI against SSG in Incheon on April 27, and then went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI against SSG the next day. Once again, he swung the bat sharply at crucial moments to help Hanwha secure the win.

He is a “practice bug” to the point where he has a large callus on his right hand.

“I can only say that I’m lucky,” Lim said of his clutch performances, “because my seniors and older brothers did a good job of preparing me for those situations.” He gave credit to his teammates, adding, “All I can do is work harder than I do well. When you work hard, you don’t expect results. I’ve been working on my swing and 스포츠토토 working on things like that because I think it will have a positive effect on me, and I’m happy that it’s paying off.”

“My goal is to do the best I can with what I have,” he concludes, adding, “My goal is not to get injured and not to stress too much about the outcome, but to do the best I can with each at-bat, each pitch.”

The game also drew a lot of attention for the appearance of Ryu Hyun-jin, who went 98-52 with one save and a 2.80 ERA in 190 games (1269 innings) in the KBO from 2006 to 2012, and 78-48 with one save and a 3.27 ERA in 186 games (1055.1 innings) in the Major League Baseball (MLB) from 2013 to last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays. It had been 4,194 days since Ryu pitched in a regular season home game against Daejeon on October 4, 2012, against the Nexen Heroes (now Kiwoom).

After struggling against the LG Twins in the opening game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on March 23, giving up two runs on six hits, three walks, and five strikeouts in 3.2 innings, Ryu dominated the KT lineup. His final line was six innings, eight hits, nine strikeouts, and two runs. He threw 89 pitches, with his fastball reaching 147 mph.

However, Ryu’s 99th career KBO win will have to wait until next time, as the bats came alive late in the game.

“I wasn’t the winning pitcher, but I’m glad the team won. I’m glad we’re on a winning streak,” he said. “I think I pitched well without being overpowered. I think I did what I thought I was going to do except for one pitch,” he said. Ryu’s next start in the Hanwha rotation will be on April 4 against the Lotte Giants in Daejeon.

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