“I have star quality” Semi-PO wedge shot→PO reversal shot→Finish→Reverse bases loaded shot…’Dormant volcano’ baseball player, 2 years old, finally erupts

Kiwoom Heroes’ Lim Ji-yeol was all smiles as he sat down for an interview.

In the eighth inning of Game 3 of the weekend series against the Lotte Giants at Gocheok Sky Dome on April 28, Lim hit a come-from-behind grand slam to lead his team to a 7-5 comeback victory.

His bat had regained some of its mojo. Prior to the eighth inning, Kiwoom had been held scoreless for 27 consecutive innings, but a five-run ninth inning broke that streak. It was a setback, but a dormant volcano spewing smoke is bound to erupt.

This day was no different. Starter Chung Chan-heon was knocked around for five runs in just 4⅔ innings, and the team could only muster a single run in the third and seventh innings. The offense had plenty of hits, but they didn’t turn into runs. A pitcher’s interference error, a third baseman’s error, and a left fielder’s error shook the mound.

However, in the eighth inning, with the score at 2-5, Lee Won-seok, a veteran who has become Lotte’s best pitcher, hit three straight singles to load the bases. Kim Dong-heon’s sacrifice fly made it 3-5, and Kim Hwi-jip’s single loaded the bases again.

Yoon Myung-jun took the mound for 스포츠토토 Lotte and Lim Ji-yeol came to the plate. Lim is the son of former Binggrae dynamo Lim Ji-yeol, who was once a part of the team’s dynamite batting lineup.

He’s moved from the outfield to the infield, and his batting has never been better. He was removed from the first team after a poor opening week, but was given another chance on May 9. He hit a game-winning home run against the NC Dinos on May 12, and then followed it up with a two-game homer the next day. He went 4-for-7 over the next two days. He’s been getting regular at-bats since then, and he broke out today. It was his first career grand slam.

Im Ji-yeol was considered a one-hit wonder prospect, but he only hit one home run in the regular season. It wasn’t until last year’s postseason that he began to show his true colors.

Lim proved his worth with a two-run shot with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 1 of the semifinals against the KT Wiz.

In the third game of the playoffs against the LG Twins, he came in as a pinch hitter with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing 3-2, and connected on a first-pitch fastball from LG’s Lee Jung-yong for a come-from-behind two-run homer. He was named the Game 3 Daily MVP.

Despite losing the Korean Series, he hit a two-run homer off SSG Landers ace Font in Game 6 of the Korean Series. He went from having just one career home run to hitting three in a single postseason. For Kiwoom, who missed out on the Korean Series title, it was a bittersweet gift.

He has plenty of opportunities this year. After a career-high 148 at-bats in 40 games last year, he’s already had 69 at-bats in 23 games this year.

In a postgame interview, Lim said, “The team was on a losing streak, so I focused on winning. I just did what I could. I feel good that I helped the team win,” he said with a humble smile. It’s a far cry from the fiery emotions after his home run, when he jumped up and hugged his teammates. “When I do well, he tells me I did well, and when I don’t do well, he doesn’t talk about baseball as much as possible. I’m always grateful,” he said.

“I haven’t thought about it, but (from what I’ve heard) I seem to have a star quality,” he replied, making the audience laugh. Regarding coach Hong Won-ki, he said, “He’s always quiet. He just stroked me,” he said.

“The moment I hit it, I thought I would at least hit the fence. The atmosphere in the dugout was not good because we kept losing, but I hope my home run will give my teammates a chance to rebound.”

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