Taipei, Nov. 5 (CNA) The Wei Chuan Dragons’ No. 4 slugger Liu Ji-hong’s (劉基鴻) walk-off solo home run in the 14th inning lifted the home squad over the visiting Rakuten Monkeys 3-2 to clinch the 2023 Chinese Professional Baseball League’s (CPBL) Taiwan Series opening game on Saturday.
With a 1-0 pitch count against Monkeys’ reliever Huang Wei-chen (黃偉晟), Liu smashed a breaking ball over the left field fence to end the game that lasted over five hours at Taipei Tianmu Baseball Stadium.
The Dragons’ third baseman’s homer was the CPBL Taiwan Series’ first walk-off home run in its 34-year history.
It was also Liu’s second during Saturday’s Game 1 of the 2023 Taiwan Series. He scored the team’s first two runs with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first to break the 0-0 deadlock.
“I knew it was a homerun as soon as I hit the ball,” Liu told reporters in a post-game presser.
Liu said he had goosebumps after hearing the fans cheering for his walk-off homer and felt deeply moved.
“I don’t feel sleepy at all [even though the game lasted for more than five hours],” he said.
Dragons Manager Yeh Chun-chang (葉君璋) praised the 23-year-old rising slugger as a “key man” for the team.
“Whenever we need [a] timely hit, he is always there for the team,” Yeh added.
Meanwhile, Monkeys’ Manager Tseng Hao-chu (曾豪駒) told reporters that it was a pity that his team did not capitalize with the bases-loaded in the fifth-inning to score more runs.
He said the whole team will reflect on the loss and get ready for Game 2.
Saturday’s match was the third-longest CPBL Taiwan Series game ever. The longest was a game hero on Oct. 24, 2009 between the Brothers Elephants and Uni-President Lions, which lasted for more than six hours and ran into the 17th inning.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven Taiwan Series will again be held at Tianmu stadium on Sunday with Jake Brigham starting for the Dragons against the Monkeys’ Huang Tzu-peng (黃子鵬).
(By Joseph Yeh)