‘SV in 966 Days’ Returns: “When I won, I forgot the ritual, so I followed it”

Returning Kiwoom Heroes closer Cho Sang-woo (30) couldn’t hide the awkwardness of his first save in three years.

In the top of the eighth inning of the 2024 Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League regular-season home game against the Lotte Giants at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul (total attendance of 10,774), Cho came on with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning to earn his first save of the season with 1 1/3 innings of two-hit, no walks and one strikeout.

Cho Sang-woo pitched a scoreless ninth inning to give Kiwoom a 5-2 victory over Lotte and its second straight win. Kiwoom’s 29 wins and 43 losses kept them within striking distance of ninth-place KT Wiz, who beat the LG Twins on the same day.

It was a whopping 966 days since his last save, on October 29, 2021, against Gocheok KT Wiz (one scoreless inning). It didn’t go smoothly. In the top of the eighth inning, Kim replaced Kim Sung-min and got Na Seung-yeop to foul out to third base on three pitches. In the top of the ninth, with Kim leading 5-2, he struck out leadoff hitter Jung Hoon on a wild pitch and gave up a big double to pinch-hitter Lee Jung-hoon to the right-center field wall.

Park then retired Seung-wook Park on a fly ball to left field, but gave up an infield single to Hwang Sung-bin to put runners on second and third. Hwang then stole second base to extend the threat. Go Seung-min’s final at-bat was also dizzying. The ball was hit near the left foul line and left fielder Ronnie Dawson made a sliding catch. Cho Sang-woo, who had been walking toward catcher Kim Jae-hyun without thinking, was stunned.

“I thought I was done, so (Kim) Jae-hyun was going to see his brother and he was like, ‘Uh, uh,’ so I turned around and Dawson was sliding,” Cho said of his final at-bat, adding, “I was nervous because it was going to a more obscure spot than I thought, but he made a great catch.”

It was his first season after being demobilized. Before his enlistment, Cho was a solid closer, but this season he started as a middle reliever. The team believed that he hadn’t yet gotten his feel for the game after two years of inactivity. However, with existing closer Joo Seung-woo (25) struggling, Kiwoom 토토 manager Hong Won-ki announced Cho’s return to the closer’s role before the game against the Gocheok Doosan Bears on March 15.

“When I was first informed that I was closing, I thought, ‘I’ve gone to the back of the order. “I didn’t think much about the innings, but I thought it would be a little easier because it’s the easiest way to manage my body and prepare for the game,” he said. “I thought the manager gave me a period of adjustment. I didn’t have good balance at the beginning, so I practiced a lot to find it quickly, and (my condition) improved a little bit. I was throwing from the front, so I got used to it (in practice) and I felt a little bit better, so I think he sent me back to finish.”

Despite being a veteran, his first closing situation in a long time was awkward. In the top of the ninth inning, with runners on second and third, manager Hong Won-ki himself came to the mound to calm him down.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve done that,” Cho said. In fact, I had forgotten the ritual we do when we win a game, so I looked to the side and imitated it.” “The manager came up earlier and said, ‘It’s been a long time, Jo Sang-woo. I think he’s here to put me at ease, and it helped.”

Now Kiwoom is back to the formula of Cho saves = team wins. The team is in 10th place, but the gap between 9th-place KT and 7.5 games from 5th-place SSG Landers is not too big.

“It’s hard to say how many goals we’re aiming for because saves are subject to conditions,” Cho said. I think the most important thing is to minimize blown saves,” he said, adding, “I think everyone is doing well and we need to be strong so that we can be in a high position at the end of the season.”


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