S. Korea defeats Cuba 6-1 in pre-WBC exhibition game

South Korea defeated Cuba 6-1 in an exhibition game ahead of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in Seoul.

Starter Chang Won-jun tossed four shutout innings, and the once-maligned lineup pounded out 11 hits at Gocheok Sky Dome in the nation's capital.

The two nations will meet again at 2 p.m. Sunday at the same venue.

South Korea will host Pool A action in the first round against Israel, the Netherlands and Chinese Taipei, starting on March 6. Cuba will face Japan, Australia and China in Pool B play in Tokyo.

South Korean left-hander Chang Won-jun throws a pitch against Cuba in an exhibition game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Feb. 25, 2017. (Yonhap) South Korean left-hander Chang Won-jun throws a pitch against Cuba in an exhibition game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Feb. 25, 2017. (Yonhap)

Chang, an All-Star left-hander for the Doosan Bears in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), gave up three hits and struck out three, while making 57 pitches.

South Korea produced just six hits in two practice games earlier this month in Okinawa, Japan, against two Japanese pro clubs, the Yomiuri Giants and the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, but the bats came to life on home soil.

South Korea scored the first run with two outs in the first, on an RBI hit by Lee Dae-ho, former Seattle Mariners first baseman now back with the KBO's Lotte Giants.

Kim Tae-kyun, in the third hole, went 2-for-3 with two walks and two RBIs, both of them coming on a bases-loaded single in the second.

No. 9 hitter Kim Jae-ho made it 4-0 South Korea with a single in the third, and Min Byung-hun drove in South Korea's fifth run with a two-out single in the fifth.

Cuba got a run back in the sixth with three hits off Korean reliever Rhee Dae-eun, but Son Ah-seop, batting sixth, hit a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth to restore a five-run advantage.

The bottom two hitters in the lineup, third baseman Hur Kyoung-min and shortstop Kim Jae-ho, were a combined 5-for-6 with two runs scored.

South Korean manager Kim In-sik said he was happy with the way his offense finally clicked, and his pitchers kept the Cuban bats at bay.

The hitters' inability to get the barrel on the ball during the Okinawa camp led to much hand-wringing, but Kim said he'd known all along his players would come around sooner rather than later.

"You can't just start hitting fastballs and breaking balls right away (early in the spring)," Kim said. "I thought they'd gradually get better. And I think they looked great in practices both yesterday and today."

Though Cuba didn't throw any fireballers at South Korea, Kim said the opposing pitchers delivered plenty of breaking balls -- which suited him just fine.

"We got to see some breaking pitches that we hadn't seen much lately," the manager said. "It'd be nice to hit some fastballs, but we got our taste of breaking balls today."

Kim said Kia Tigers left-hander Yang Hyeon-jong will get the start Sunday, and he'll try to get as many players into the game as he can.

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