Panama beats Korea, is one step closer to super round of U-23 Baseball World Cup

Panama beats Korea, is one step closer to super round of U-23 Baseball World Cup
Korea took a quick lead in the first, but Panama reversed the lead in the bottom half of the frame and didn't need to look back. Second baseman Adrian Montero went 3-for-4.

After a sluggish start on their first day of the U-23 Baseball World Cup, Panama’s national team has come alive.

Behind three hits from leadoff man Adrian Montero and steady starting pitching from Antonio Frias, world No. 13 Panama knocked off No. 2 Korea, 5-2, on Saturday at Estadio Sonora.

Montero lit the fire for his side from early on. After Korea scored a run in the top of the first inning, the second baseman kicked off the bottom of the first with a single to right field, racing to third on Joshwan Wright’s double to left behind him and then scoring on a wild pitch by Korea righty Eun Cho, who started on the mound for the second straight day. Erick Mordock followed with a single to center to plate Wright and dispatch Cho, who was unable to record an out.

In the second, facing Keon Woo Kim, Friday’s winning pitcher for Korea, Montero again sparked his team. With two outs and the bases empty, the 20-year-old singled to left field and went to second on Wright’s single to right. After a walk to Mordock loaded the bases, Erasmo Caballero singled to left field to drive in a pair and put Panama in front 4-1.

Korea narrowed the gap on Jong Chan Lim’s RBI single to center following a Dong Hyeok Kim triple with one out in the fifth, but it was as close as the world No. 2 would get. Panama erased the run with one of its own on an RBI single up the middle by Montero in the sixth – his third hit of the game.

Frias pitched into the fifth, allowing two runs on three hits while working around five walks with six strikeouts. After his departure, fellow southpaw James Gonzalez took things the rest of the way for Panama, allowing one hit but no runs over 2 2/3 innings to earn the win.

"Coming back in the bottom of the first made all the difference," commented Panama's manager Cristobal Giron. "Our hitters adjusted after the first game and gave us more quality at-bats."

At 2-1, Panama will face the Netherlands in the 10:30 game on Sunday morning at Estadio Sonora while 1-2 Korea will meet Venezuela in the nightcap from 19:30.