The NC Dinos’ all-time winningest pitcher (81 wins) and changeup master (33).
Moved to NC from Doosan through the 2011 Secondary Draft and became a cornerstone of the pitching staff. Since 2013, he has been the homegrown ace with four consecutive years of double-digit wins.
But when the team rose to the top, Lee was not there. When NC won the combined regular season and Korean Series title in 2020, Lee was a bridesmaid. He struggled in 2020, going 5-6 with a 6.55 ERA in 19 games, and ultimately didn’t make the Korean Series roster. When the team won its first Korean Series title in nine years, Lee Jae-hak was not present when then-captain Yang Yang-ji (now Doosan) performed the executioner’s sword ceremony.
For NC, it was the only option at the time. It was ironic and painful that Lee Jae-hak, who had written many pages in the club’s history, was not present at the best moment in the club’s history. For Lee, the heartbreak must have been immense, which makes the return of fall baseball all the more special and unique.
This year, Lee finished with a 5-5 record in 15 games (13 starts) with a 4.54 ERA (34 earned runs in 67⅓ innings). He recorded five quality starts. He was sidelined with a metatarsal fracture after being hit in the left foot by a pitch on June 22 against the Changwon LG and had to rehab for about two months before returning.
In the postseason, he shed the title of homegrown ace and became the go-to guy, pitching in both the starting and bullpen roles. 카지노사이트킴 In Game 1 of the wild-card decider against Doosan, he pitched ⅔ innings of one-hit ball with one strikeout. He pitched in two of the three semifinal games against SSG, going 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA (2 earned runs in 3⅔ innings).
Ace Eric Peddy was unavailable for the wild-card game and the semifinals. The NC starting lineup was particularly outmatched against SSG. Lee Jae-hak didn’t make the starting roster, but he played an integral part in the semifinal upset of the three-game series. He did a good job as the link to the top two, Kim Young-kyu and Ryu Jin-wook.
However, Lee’s fall baseball season could have ended the same way. In Game 3 of the semifinals on Aug. 25, Lee pitched 2⅔ innings of one-hit ball with four strikeouts and one run.
Tanner was tagged for five runs in two innings. Baton took over with the bases loaded in the third inning with a narrow 7-5 lead. He struck out the first batter, Park Sung-hyun, but gave up back-to-back singles to Kim Sung-hyun and Oh Tae-gon to load the bases. A situation that could turn the game around again. However, Lee Jae-hak got Choi Ji-hoon to ground out to shortstop to preserve the lead.
Although he gave up a run in the bottom of the fourth inning on a double to Han Yoo-seom, he was able to get out of the inning without further damage. Then, in the fifth inning, he gave up another walk to Kim Sung-hyun. And Oh Tae-gon batted. Lee faced a dizzying situation. Oh’s line drive came right back at him and hit him right in the right hand.
After being hit on the back of the hand, Lee froze, unable to follow up quickly enough. However, Lee barely saw the ball in front of him and threw with all his might to first base. What could have been an infield single turned into a double play, putting runners on first and second. Afterward, Lee Jae-hak headed straight to the hospital with the help of a trainer. The one out that Lee Jae-hak secured proved to be a great achievement as Kim Young-gyu came on to close out the inning.
In the end, Lee was the winning pitcher in a 7-6 victory. It was Lee’s first win in nine postseason games. After the game, Lee raised his hands in celebration in the dugout. He was still in pain, but a smile was plastered across his face.
“I really wanted to finish that inning,” he said of his post-injury situation, explaining that he had to throw the ball out before he could even grip it properly. The pain in the back of his hand prevented him from utilizing his index and middle fingers to throw the ball. He explained to reporters that he used his ring and small fingers to grip the ball and throw it.
“It was actually very painful. I couldn’t move my hand. But (Seo) Ho-cheol was calling loudly from the sidelines, so I thought, ‘I have to get this out,’ and I threw it, and it went just like that.” Obviously, runners on first and second and runners on second and second are different situations, so every out that Lee Jae-hak got was important.
The medical examination resulted in a bruise. It’s good to know that there’s nothing wrong with the bone, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to pitch in the playoff series against KT. Lee Jae-hak, however, will want to wipe the slate clean from three years ago. The fall of NC’s winningest native ace in living history is not one he wants to see end.