“I worked so hard, and it didn’t work out…” The 156km ace had never felt such bottom-of-the-barrel air before, and was understandably frustrated.

“It’s frustrating to be so far down in the standings.”안전놀이터

Kiwoom ace Ahn Woo-jin, who joined the Heroes as a first-round pick in 2018, hasn’t missed a fall baseball game since his debut until last year. He also played in the Korean Series in 2019 and 2022.

However, this season is different. With Lee Jeong-hoo out with an injury and Eric Yokishi also sidelined, the team has struggled. Currently, Kiwoom has played 112 games, the most in the league, but with a dismal record of 45 wins, 64 losses, and three draws, they are at the bottom of the league.

Photo (Seoul Gocheok)=Reporter Lee Jung-won

Photo by Chun Jung-hwan
Still, they are not giving up. Starting the 13th game of the season against the Lotte Giants at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on April 19, Ahn recorded his 14th quality start of the season (6 innings, 3 earned runs or less) with 6 innings of 4-hit ball, 3 walks, and 2 strikeouts. Ahn threw 97 pitches on the day, including 49 fastballs, 24 sliders, 14 curves, and 10 changeups. His fastball touched 95 mph. Ahn, who went to the second team to recharge after his last start on Aug. 8, looked good in his first start in 11 days.

The team secured a 5-2 victory, their second straight win and first in August. After the game, Kiwoom head coach Hong Won-ki said, “Ahn Woo-jin pitched well until the sixth inning in a tough situation. As the innings went on, she stabilized and showed her ace-like qualities.”

Ahn Woo-jin said, “I’m upset that we’re down in the standings. We prepared hard, but it didn’t work out, so we’re a little saggy. I want to play more winning matches,” he said.

“When you win, of course you feel good, and it’s a little less hard, but when you don’t win, you don’t get anything out of it, even if you pitch well. If you lose to a team that’s not yours, it puts a lot of pressure on you.”

On this day, he threw the ball thinking about balance rather than throwing a powerful ball.

Photo by Kim Young-koo
He said, “I tried to look at the corner of the strike zone when I thought the batter wasn’t going to hit it or the first pitch. I thought about balance rather than power. I focused on throwing my pitches accurately, so I got a lot of hits from the third inning,” he said. “I didn’t strike out as much as usual, and I didn’t have a good delivery, but I think I improved by trying to throw accurately and using a lot of changeups.”

With the win, she improved to 8-0 on the season with a 2.40 ERA in 22 games. Ahn is two wins shy of reaching the 10-win plateau for the second consecutive year, after posting her first double-digit win total of 15 last season. Although fall baseball may not be easy, she can’t give up on 10 wins for the second year in a row.

“I want to win 10 games, and I think I have about 10 rotations left. I want to win, but I will do my best to help the team win as much as possible,” she said.

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