Noh Si-hwan (22-Hanwha Eagles) has become one of the most consistent No. 4 hitters in Korean baseball.
Noh went 2-for-5 with a leadoff double and two RBIs in Korea’s 3-2 victory over Japan in the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2023 final at the Tokyo Dome on Monday.
With runners on first and second in the top of the third inning, Noh took advantage of Japan starter Tatsuya Imai’s first-pitch slider up the middle and pulled it hard for a two-run double to left-center field.
The two runs were the only runs Korea scored in the regular innings, as Japan scored a pair of runs in the fifth and sixth innings to send the game to extra innings.
Noh made his presence felt again in the top of the 10th inning.
Yoon Dong-hee (Lotte Giants) led off the inning with a single and pushed a Kojiro Yoshimura fastball over the plate to put runners on first and third with a 3-2 lead. However, no follow-up hit was forthcoming.
Korea gave up two runs to Japan in the bottom of the 10th inning to fall to 3-4.
Noh is now 7-for-18 with a home run and four RBIs in four games.
He struggled in the center field as Kang Baek-ho (KT WIZ) was sidelined with an injury.
Noh Si-hwan led a Korean batting lineup that struggled early and often in the tournament.
Went 5-for-5 with a double and an RBI in the first qualifying game against Australia, which featured a team-leading 12 walks, including the game-winning hit in the 10th inning.
Against Japan, he went 1-for-4 with a walk and a hit, and against Chinese Taipei, he drove in the game’s first run with a clean single with runners on first and third.
Once he got going, the Korean bats pounded out a team-high 10 hits in a 6-1 win over Chinese Taipei.
Noh carried his hot bat from last month’s Asian Games in Hangzhou (7-for-16, 6 RBI) to Tokyo, Japan.
It’s a return to form for the No. 4 hitter, a position that has been absent since the retirement of Lee Dae-ho.
Noh Si-hwan also hit a career-high in Korea this year, shedding the label of ‘next generation’.
After the game, Noh said, “Even though I lost, I had a really good experience coming here. The Japanese players are very good, so I learned a lot and felt a lot during the game.”
What impressed him most was the Japanese pitchers’ precise delivery and changeup.
“I felt like I was struggling in the batter’s box,” he said, “and it was hard to get into the batter’s box, but I gained a lot of experience by overcoming it.”
The game was played at the Tokyo Dome, which held 41,883 seats out of a total capacity of 42,300, with nearly every seat sold.
“It was rather fun,” smiled Noh, who was playing in front of more than 40,000 people for the first time.
“There was tension, but there was also fun. It was a good experience because the game was close, and I really enjoyed playing baseball in front of the crowd.”
At 22 years old, Noh finished the 2023 season with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs, ranking first in both home runs and RBIs.
He is only the third player in KBO history to win the home run title before the age of 23, joining Doosan Bears manager Lee Seung-yeop (21 in 1997) and KBO talent donor Jang Jong-hoon (22 in 1990).
Noh is also the second-youngest player in KBO history to achieve 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, joining Lee Seung-yup, who hit 32 home runs and 114 RBIs at age 21 in 1997.
This year, Noh’s hot streak has taken him to Korea, China, and Japan.
Reflecting on the season, Noh said, “I was happy to be able to play baseball for a whole year without getting injured. It was my first national team selection as an adult, and I won a gold medal at the Asian Games and a runner-up finish at this tournament. I think this will be my most memorable season.”
You can’t really be “Korea’s No. 4 batsman” if you’re satisfied here.
“I need to build on this season and grow further. Next year is more important,” and then said, “Since I performed well this year, I think I should prepare well to become a better player next year than this year.” He said goodbye to the long 2023 season. 파워볼