South Korea claimed the first-ever WBSC Premier12 title ©Getty Images

A huge three-run homer from Park Byung-ho propelled a clinical South Korea to an 8-0 victory over United States here this evening to secure the first ever World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 title.

The South Koreans, also the reigning Olympic and Asian Games champions, were simply too strong for opponents who had done well to make the final, but proved unable to match a combination of ferocious hitting and relentless pitching.

It was markedly more comfortable than the semi-final - the tournament's outstanding game - when South Korea trailed 3-0 in the ninth inning before mounting a remarkable comeback to steal a 4-3 victory over eventual bronze medallists and hosts Japan.

Hwang Jae-Gyun hit US starting pitcher Zack Segovia for a single in the second inning to open the scoring this time around before Doosan Bears star Kim Hyun-soo doubled the advantage.

Segovia was swiftly replaced by one of the stars of the tournament going into the final for the US in Brooks Pounders.

On this occasion, however, his arrival only allowed the floodgates to open as Kim Hyun-Soo scored with a two-run double before the monumental hit from Park.

Park Byung-Ho hit a huge home run as South Korea overpowered the US ©Getty Images
Park Byung-ho hit a huge home run as South Korea overpowered the US ©Getty Images

Park, who is likely to join Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise Minnesota Twins next season, dispatched a 138 kilometres-per-hour slider high into the stand to accrue three further runs as South Korea had two runners on bases.

It appeared virtually impossible for the US to recover from there, and they responded by losing their discipline and pointlessly protesting a decision to give a runner out for obstructing a base. 

A further run was conceded when Jeong Keun-woo drew a bases-loaded walk off Casey Coleman, the fifth US pitcher of the night, in the ninth inning to confirm for South Korea a prize-pot of $1 million (£652,000/€905,000).

Virtually the only highlight for the US were several superb diving saves by short-stop Elliot Soto, with the team dealt a blow before the game had even started when three squad members were withdrawn due to being called up by MLB teams.

Considering no players from the country's foremost league were present, reaching the final still represented a strong performance. 

For South Korea it was a further example of their big-game pedigree, with the semi-final and final wins avenging their earlier losses to both Japan and the US in the group stage.

Kim Hyun-soo was named the first ever Premier12 Most Valuable Player (MVP), while Japanese pitching sensation Shohei Otana won the tournament’s Earned Run Average (ERA) title.

His team-mate Hayato Sakamoto was named outstanding defensive player.

Japan had partially amended their heartbreaking semi-final exit with a dominant 11-1 victory over Mexico in the bronze medal game.

Japan hit five home runs en route to beating Mexico in the bronze medal game ©Getty Images
Japan hit five home runs en route to beating Mexico in the bronze medal game ©Getty Images

Sho Nakata and Nobuhiro Matsuda each hit two-run homers in the second inning as the tournament's surprise package were well and truly outclassed.

The home side scored seven runs in the second inning to cruise into an early 8-0 lead, before the game ended in the seventh on the 10-run mercy rule after another two-run homer from Shogo Akiyama.

Tickets were sold as one-package for both games, meaning today's official attendance was over 40,000, although there were far more empty seats visible for the final than for the earlier encounter involving the Japanese.

The tournament remained a big success nonetheless, however, showcasing the sport in a venue which could yet play host to an Olympic competition at Tokyo 2020, should the International Olympic Committee approve a proposal to return baseball and softball to the programme.

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