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South Korea storms into final

OLYMPIC champion South Korea struck early in a 10-2 blowout over Venezuela on Saturday to reach the final of the World Baseball Classic (WBC).

The Koreans scored five runs in the first inning and tacked on two more in the second to set up a title clash with the winner of today's semifinal between the United States and Japan.

Outfielder Choo Shin-soo of the Cleveland Indians belted a three-run homer to highlight South Korea's first inning outburst at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Last year's Beijing Olympic gold medalist sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning, the first four batters reaching base in an electrifying start.

Venezuela made two costly errors in the inning, including a dropped fly ball by Bobby Abreu.

"We won today and we did not expect to win," South Korea coach Kim In-sik told reporters. "But of course our win was aided by errors from our opponents. That was a big factor, too."

Missing key members from their triumphant Beijing side, the Koreans tagged Venezuela's Seattle Mariners pitcher Carlos Silva with seven runs and six hits in just 1-1/3 innings.

Kim Tae-kyun also homered off Silva, going deep with a two-run blast in the second inning, and admitted afterwards a scouting report by Choo had helped.

"Shin-soo knew about the pitcher and we talked about it a lot," he said. "We expected a lot of sinkers would be thrown and were ready for them."

Yoon Suk-min pitched six-plus solid innings for the win, giving up seven hits and two runs while striking out four and walking just one Venezuelan batter.

The right-hander gave up runs in the third and seventh innings with Carlos Guillen of the Detroit Tigers smacking a solo homer in the seventh.

Botched pickoff

South Korea scored a solo run in the fourth on a botched pickoff attempt and two more in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Lee Dae-ho and Choi Jeong's sacrifice fly.

Led by Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Abreu, Jose Lopez, Guillen, Melvin Mora and Ramon Hernandez, the Venezuelans had 12 homers and 36 extra-base hits in their first seven games and outscored the opposition 30-11 while winning their previous five, including two over the US.

Guillen, Abreu and Hernandez had two hits each for Venezuela, who had a total of nine off five pitchers. South Korea had 10 hits off six pitchers.

South Korea could play WBC holder Japan for the fifth time in this year's tournament in the final. "It does not matter who we face, the US or Japan," Kim In-sik said. "Either team is fine. We came all the way here and we hope to face the best of the two teams."

Asian rivals South Korea and Japan have met four times, including the opening pool stage in Tokyo earlier this month, both teams winning two games apiece.

Japan won the first WBC in 2006.


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