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Venezuela presents big test for South Korea

OLYMPIC champion South Korea faces a tough task in today's World Baseball Classic semifinal when it goes up against hard-hitting Venezuela and a lineup loaded with Major League Baseball talent.

Venezuela boasts a batting order that includes such accomplished major leaguers as Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and Bobby Abreu.

"Many of them are major leaguers, and they have important positions in the major leagues," South Korean manager Kim In-sik told reporters in Los Angeles. "However, I will say that even though we may fall off in terms of caliber of players, we will play hard until the last out."

Venezuela (6-1) and South Korea (5-2) launch the Final Four action at Dodger Stadium. The winners advance to the title game against the survivor of tomorrow's semifinal between defending champion Japan (5-2) and the United States (4-3).

South Korea will start Yoon Suk-min, who is 1-0 and has yet to allow a run in 9 2/3 innings. Venezuela counters with Carlos Silva, who is also 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA.

Venezuela is batting .309 as a team, scoring 43 runs and hammering 11 homers in their seven games. "To bring this (title) to Venezuela, personally, I think would be the most important of my career," manager Luis Sojo said.

Tomorrow, Japan's Daisuke Matsuzaka, MVP of his country's triumph in the inaugural WBC in 2006, will start against Roy Oswalt, who is moving up a day to give Jake Peavy some extra rest should the US advance to the final.

Japan manager Tatsunori Hara relishes the challenge. "We need to catch up with the major leagues, and we need to go beyond that," he said.


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