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Director Kang’s two choices, the clincher that elevated NC to PO

NC head coach Kang Myung-hyun had to think long and hard about pitching ace Eric Peddie at the end of the regular season. The team was in a fierce battle for third place with SSG and Doosan, and the last two games of the KIA doubleheader were virtually a standings decider.

With third place being the only way to bypass the wild-card decider and go directly to the semi-playoffs, Kang decided to pitch Pedi on the first day of the final two-game series against KIA on the 16th. With a chance to go to the semi-playoffs if they succeeded, but a wild card game on the 19th if they failed, he chose to use Pedi as the third place deciding card instead of the first win in fall baseball.

This choice failed. Peddie pitched well, but we lost a blowout, and we lost the next day as well, leaving NC in fourth place. With a day off and a wild-card game right around the corner, they couldn’t use their ace. To top it all off, Pedi was hit in the forearm by a pitch and had to be substituted, bruised and battered. It was a nightmare. It felt like a gamble that failed and could have ruined our fall baseball season.

But the call turned out to be a good one. NC started Tanner Tully in the wild-card game and used their bullpen to win and advance to the semifinals. The issue of when Peddie would pitch dominated the semifinals. Pedi’s recovery and availability became a major concern for the team, and the biggest factor in determining the course of the playoffs. Moreover, having a ‘must-win card’ that could come out at any moment unintentionally became a great weapon to intimidate the opponents.

There was another important choice Kang made before the start of fall baseball. He pulled starter Shin Min-hyuk early in the final game of the season against KIA on the 17th.

NC needed to win that game outright, but SSG needed to lose in another stadium to finish third. Under unfavorable circumstances, Shin pitched well. He pitched five innings of two-hit ball with no walks and no runs. However, the bats failed to score as they were held in check by KIA’s Yang Hyun-jong. By then, SSG had already taken a 5-0 lead in the first inning in Doosan. Seeing that third place seemed to be out of reach, manager Kang Myung-ho switched from 0-0 to the bullpen in the bottom of the sixth inning. Shin Min-hyuk only threw 48 pitches.

At the time, he was preparing to start the second wild-card game three days later. NC, which was without its No. 1 starter due to Koo Chang-mo’s injury, had actually been playing the season with Peddie, Tanner, Shin Min-hyuk, and Song Myung-ki, and had to play fall baseball as well, but Shin Min-hyuk’s pitching was the best among the domestic starters.

The team immediately realized that third place would be difficult and boldly switched to preparing for the wild card game by replacing Shin Min-hyuk, who had only thrown 48 pitches, and this choice ended up being the decisive factor that led NC to the playoffs. 굿모닝토토

With Seo Ho-cheol’s explosive performance in the wild card game, NC went straight to the semi-playoffs without a second game, and Shin Min-hyuk pitched the first game of the semi-playoffs on the 22nd. After throwing just 48 pitches in his previous game on only four days’ rest, Shin threw 87 pitches in this pivotal game, tossing 5.2 innings of four-hit shutout ball. Shin’s performance was complemented by a young pitching staff that included SSG starter Roenis

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