After a three-year hiatus, the Phoenix Flag (봉황대기) National High School Baseball Championship was revived as part of the Korea Baseball Association’s (KBA) project to restore high school baseball in South Korea. The tournament was shut down in 2010 as part of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s efforts to raise the education level of student athletes. Hankook-Ilbo or better known to the expat community as The Korea Times continued their role as organizers of the tournament, one that has every single high school with baseball programs participate.
57 high schools run baseball programs in Korea, and they were split into two groups for the tournament. On parallel with the KBA’s policy to spread baseball to localities other than the Seoul Metropolitan Region, the two groups played out their games in two rural municipalities: Cheongu in Chungcheongbuk-do (충청북도 청주시) and Gunsan in Jeollabuk-do (전라북도 군산시). The latter is well known to the US community for having a US air base. However, from the quarter finals and after, the games were played in Seoul’s Mokdong Baseball Stadium.
The tournament also featured an unexpected factor, where players who had been selected to participate in the IBAF AAA (18U) Baseball World Cup were unable to join the team, unless their school advanced to the quarter finals. Bugil High School’s righty starter Yu Hee-woon (유희운) was the only member of the South Korea National Team to play in tournament as the other schools were unable to perform well without their star players.
After more than two-weeks of tournament games, the finals showcased two regional rivals: Gunsan Commericial High School (군산상고) of the southwest Honam region (호남 지방), and Masan High School (마산고) of the southeast Yeongnam region (영남 지방). However, it became one of the most lopsided finals game in the tournament’s 40-year history.
Gunsan Commercial struck first scoring eight runs in the first inning, and continued to score in every inning except in the 4th and 8th. As the mercy rule does not apply in the finals, Gunsan Commercial’s offense racked up 20 runs on 22 hits, eight walks and six hit-by-pitches. The number 5-9 hitters combined to hit 0.531 (17-for-32) with 2 doubles, 2 triples, and 14 RBIs. No home runs were hit in the blow out. Masan High School fans had to endure the tough loss after making the four-hour trip from Masan.
Gunsan Commercial High School’s starter and kt wiz’s 2014 3rd Round pick (28th overall), Jo Hyeon-myeong (조현명, LHP), pitched 7.2 innings taking the mound twice as he was moved to left field after the fifth inning. He came back on the mound after his reliever, Lee Yun-hu (이윤후), gave up a run while only getting a single out out of five batters he had faced. His final line was: 7.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 126 pitches. Jo was the only draftee of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft to play in this year’s finals.
This marked the the school’s first Phoenix Flag title in 17 years, and their first national championship title since 1999. The players were congratulated back home in Gunsan with a rather modest parade arranged by the municipal government.
So, below is the complete result of the tournament brackets and award winners. As mentioned in previous posts, awards in Korea are occasionally given as a consolation prize, NOT necessarily to the best performer.
- Champions: Gunsan Commercial High School
- Runner-up: Masan High School
- 3rd Place: Bugil High School (북일고), Masan Yongma High School (마산용마고)
- Most Valuable Player: Jo Hyeon-myeong (조현명, Gunsan Comm. HS, LHP – 7.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 126 pitches)
- Best Pitcher: Jo Hyeon-myeong (조현명, Gunsan Comm. HS, LHP – 7.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 126 pitches), Lee Yun-hu (이윤후, Gunsan Comm. HS, RHP – 0.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 18 pitches)
- Fighting Spirit Award : Ryu Jae-in (류재인, Masan HS, RHP – 2.0 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 56 pitches)
- Outstanding Player : Kim Gi-woon (김기운, Gunsan Comm. HS, 3B – 4-for-5, 5 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB)
- Top 3 Hitters: Park Jae-seok (박재석, Masan HS, LF – 0.571, 8-for-14), Kim Jae-ho (김재호, Gunsan Comm. HS, SS – 0.450, 9-for-20), Lee Do-yun (이도윤, Bugil HS, 3B – 0.444, 8-for-18)
- Most Stolen Bases: Lee Do-yun (이도윤, Bugil HS, 3B – 5 SB)
- Most RBIs: Kim Gi-woon (김기운, Gunsan Comm. HS, 3B – 9 RBI)
- Most Home Run(s): Han Ji-su (한지수, Choongang HS, 3B – 1 HR)
- Most Base Hits: Kim Jae-ho (김재호, Gunsan Comm. HS, SS – 9 H)
- Most Runs Scored: Kim Gi-woon (김기운, Gunsan Comm. HS, 3B – 8 R)
- Manager Award: Seok Su-cheol (석수철, Gunsan Comm. HS, Manager), Lee Hyo-geun (이효근, Masan HS, Manager)
- Coach Award: Lee Min-seop (이민섭, Gunsan Comm. HS, Coach), Son Jong-gu (손종구, Masan HS, Coach)
- Achievement Award: Jin Chang-yeop (진창엽, Gunsan Comm. HS, Principal), An Hyeong-ho (안형호, Masan HS, Principal)
- Outstanding Umpire: Kim Do-hyeong (김도형, KBA, Umpire)
- Korea Baseball Association
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