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KBO stars, alumni to face Korea in Premier12

Oct 10,2019
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Brock Dykxhoorn, Warwick Saupold
There will be familiar faces for Korean baseball fans among their national team’s opponents at an Olympic baseball qualifying tournament next month.

Australia, Canada and Cuba - the three opposing teams for Group C host Korea at the Premier12 tournament scheduled for November - announced their final rosters on Wednesday.

Gocheok Sky Dome in western Seoul will be the venue for the Nov. 6-8 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) tournament, which will double as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Australia’s pitching staff will feature one current and one former player from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

The Hanwha Eagles’ right-hander Warwick Saupold got the call after going 12-11 with a 3.51 ERA in 2019, his first KBO season. He was particularly sharp in the second half, with a 6-2 record and a 1.85 ERA.

Left-hander Travis Blackley spent one year in the Korean league with the Kia Tigers in 2011, when he was 7-5 with a 3.48 ERA.

Both Saupold and Blackley have major league experience.

Former KBO ace Chris Oxspring will be on Australia’s coaching staff. Oxspring pitched five seasons in the KBO for three different teams, compiling a 49-40 record with a 3.90 ERA. He also served as pitching coach for a KBO club, the Lotte Giants, from 2016 to 2018.

Joining the Canadian pitching staff will be right-hander Brock Dykxhoorn, who split his first KBO season this year with the SK Wyverns and the Giants. He went 6-10 with a 4.34 ERA.

Scott Richmond, a right-hander who had a contract dispute with the Lotte Giants six years ago, made the Canadian team too.

Canada also features 2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau and ex-All-Star outfielder Michael Saunders.

Morneau, 38, played his final major league game in 2016 and announced his retirement in January 2018, while Saunders, 32, last played in the bigs in 2017.

Those on the 40-man roster in the majors won’t be eligible for the Premier12.

There’s one Cuban player currently in the KBO, Jose Miguel Fernandez of the Doosan Bears, but he didn’t make his national team for the Premier12.

The Premier12 features the top 12 countries in the world rankings. Korea is the highest-ranked nation in Group C at No. 3, followed by Cuba (No. 5), Australia (No. 7) and Canada (No. 10).

The Group A teams are No. 2 USA, No. 6 Mexico, No. 8 the Netherlands and No. 12 Dominican Republic. Their games will take place in Guadalajara, Mexico.

In Group B, world No. 1 and Olympic host Japan will face Chinese Taipei (No. 4), Venezuela (No. 9) and Puerto Rico (No. 11) in Taichung, Taiwan.

The top two teams from each group will advance to the six-team Super Round, to be played at Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba, Japan, and Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. The iconic stadium in Tokyo will also host the championship final.

The top finisher from the Americas and the top country from the Asia/Oceania region that qualify for the Super Round at the Premier12 will earn direct entries into Tokyo 2020.

Japan is already in the Olympics as the host nation. This means Korea has to qualify for the Super Round and finish ahead of Australia and Chinese Taipei at the Premier12 to punch a ticket to Tokyo.

Yonhap