The ‘Dinosaur Legion’ NC Dinos’ unstoppable advance stopped at the Korean Series (KS) threshold.
NC dropped Game 5 of the best-of-five playoffs (PO-5) against KT WIZ on the 5th, losing the series and exiting the autumn stage as it was.
NC had an 88.2 per cent chance of advancing to the KS by winning Games 1 and 2 of the PO, but could not overcome a batting slump due to accumulated fatigue and bullpen difficulties and dropped Games 3-5.
Nevertheless, the NC’s 2023 season can be considered a year of joy and surprises rather than disappointment.
NC’s objective situation heading into the season was not good.
After the 2022 season, there was a prevailing assessment that the team was weakened by the failure to capture Yang Ji (Doosan Bears) and Noh Jin-hyuk (Lotte Giants) in the free agent (FA) market.
There was also a string of bad news, with foreign pitcher Taylor Widener being sidelined for nearly two months after the start of the season with a herniated disc, and foreign hitter Jason Martin being de-registered for a month in early April with an adductor muscle injury.
Left-hander extraordinaire Koo Chang-mo, who was highly touted after returning from injury last season, played just 11 games due to muscle damage and a stress fracture.
However, NC cruised through the 2023 season with an exquisite batting line-up.
On the mound, Eric Peddie, the pitcher’s trifecta (wins, ERA, and strikeouts), was a major contributor.
Peddie went 20-6 with a 2.00 ERA and 209 strikeouts, becoming the first player to achieve “20 wins + 200 strikeouts” in 37 years since Seon Dong-yeol of the 1986 Hattae Tigers (24 wins, 214 strikeouts).
Kim Young-kyu (24 holds, 3.06 ERA), Ryu Jin-wook (22 holds, 2.15 ERA) and Lee Yong-chan (29 saves, 4.13 ERA) also shone in the bullpen.
In the batting order, Park Gun-woo, Son As-seob, and Park Min-woo, who rank second to fourth in the active batting order (over 3,000 at-bats), continued to lead the top line-up.
Leadoff hitter Son As-seob won his first career batting title with a .339 batting average along with the most hits (187) this year.
Although they lost third place to the SSG Landers at the end of the regular season, the NC Dinosaurs’ march began then.
With Pedi sidelined with a bruised right forearm, NC defeated the Doosan Bears and SSG Landers in the Wild Card Decider (WC) and Semi-Playeroffs (Semi-PO), respectively.
Each game featured a “crazy player,” including Seo Ho-cheol (WC game-winning run), Kim Sung-wook (Semi-Po Game 1 final two-run shot), Kim Hyung-jun (Semi-Po Game 2 wedge solo shot), and Jason Martin (Semi-Po Game 3 comeback three-pointer).
After reaching the PO, NC took Game 1 and took Game 2 with Pedi returning from injury, pushing KT to the brink.
From Game 4 of the 2020 KS to Game 2 of this year’s PO, NC won nine consecutive postseason (PS) games, tying the all-time PS record set by the HaeTae Tigers in 1987-1988.
However, the batting line-up and bullpen rapidly lost their strength as fatigue reached a critical point after a strong run from the end of the regular season. In the end, they were swept by KT.
After falling short at the threshold of the Korean Series, NC head coach Kang In-hwa said at the post-playoff press conference, “Our players gave their best effort with passion. However, I am disappointed that we were unable to protect our dominance and finish the game. We couldn’t overcome our physical disadvantage,” he reflected.
“We were underestimated (as favourites) before the season, but our players came together and played well,” he said, adding that it was a “beautiful challenge”.
Kang, who revealed that he could use ace Pedi as a relief pitcher in Game 5 of the PO, explained the situation by saying, “Pedi tried to move (his body), but he expressed that he felt heavy, so that’s why he was unable to appear in the bullpen.”
“The performance of young future resources such as Kim Hyung-joon, Kim Joo-won, Seo Ho-cheol and the middle bullpen pitchers has been encouraging this year,” Kang said, introducing the goal of focusing on the development of domestic starters in the final training.
“I’m grateful to Son Ah-seop for guiding the juniors well to learn their passion,” he said, “and pitcher Shin Min-hyuk took a step forward through autumn baseball.” 파워볼사이트