“In a way, it’s a small record, but before that, I was so bad…”

Kiwoom Heroes right-hander Jang Jae-young (21) is his first victory on the club’s YouTube. However, all Kiwoom members were happy with the insignificant record, and there was a reason.

Jang Jae-young started the regular season home game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against the NC Dinos at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on the 5th and led Kiwoom to a 2-0 victory with 2 hits, 4 walks, and 7 strikeouts in 5⅓ innings.

It was a pitching with a unique fast fastball. On this day, Jang Jae-young recorded the highest number of pitches in a single game with his powerful pitching. He threw a total of 92 four-seam fastballs (70 pitches), sliders (15 pitches), and curves (7 pitches) with a maximum speed of 154 kilometers per hour, breaking the record for the most innings and strikeouts in a single game.

It is the first win of the season in 820 days since the Gocheok KIA Tigers match on April 6, 2021. Jang Jae-young, who graduated from Galsan Elementary 메이저놀이터 School, Shinwol Middle School, and Deoksu High School, joined Kiwoom as the first nomination for the 2021 rookie draft. Since Deoksu High School’s days, he has attracted attention from major league teams by using fast balls and large curves of mid-150km per hour, but his growth pain was greater than expected.

The ball control was the problem. Until last year, he had an 8.53 ERA in 33 games, but he had 35 walks (31 walks, 4 balls) more than innings while playing 31⅔ innings. However, Kiwoom could not give up easily. During the same period, Jang Jae-young struck out as many as four walks. During the training, even the coaches, who were lined with former professional players, sprayed a powerful ball that surprised them, saying it was “harsh.”

The club saw that the psychological problem was bigger than the problem of the pitching mechanism. Since the final camp in 2021, the first-tier pitching coach at the time (47) has started to manage Jang Jae-young’s mentality by making a one-on-one mark. Director Hong Won-ki (50), who is qualified as a first-class psychological counselor, guided Jang Jae-young with positive words rather than negative words. Ahn Woo-jin (24) and Lee Jung-hoo (25) became mentors for Jang Jae-young.

The efforts of all members over a year have blossomed through the experience of Geelong Korea in Australia last winter. Kiwoom offered both pitching and batting while at Geelong Korea, and Jang Jae-young, who had no choice but to succeed as a pitcher, also felt how his ball could look through his at-bat experience. The aggressive appearance of foreign hitters also helped him to be confident in his ball.

The beginning of the 2023 season, which started with such confidence, did not look much different. In April, he gave up five walks in two games as a starter and went down to the Futures League. I didn’t give up. In June, when he came back after taking consistent starting classes in the Futures League, he began to appear as a result on the mound.

It wasn’t powerful or impactful. He played three innings, focusing on control rather than fastballs with a maximum speed of 155 kilometers per hour. However, the number of walks decreased significantly to one or two per game, and the number of innings gradually increased. In the match against the Doosan Bears in Gocheok on the 23rd of last month, he also met the winning pitcher requirement with one run in five innings for the first time since his debut. It’s a situation where you just have to take one step forward to your first win. The opposing starting pitcher was Eric Pedi (30), who is considered a league ace with 11 wins and 1 loss and a 1.61 ERA in 13 games. It was a difficult opponent to win, but he continued to play a tight game with pitching as much as Pedi.

Jang Jae-young, who started with a three-way exit in the first inning, was on the verge of the first crisis by giving up a left-handed hit to Kwon Hee-dong and a walk to Jason Martin in the second inning. From this point on, it began to show a different appearance than before. He struck out Yoon Hyung-joon by mixing a slider of early 130km per hour, and induced Chun Jae-hwan to strike out two consecutive swings in the same way. In the match against Park Se-hyuk, he caught a strike count only with a fastball and struck out a hook with a curve that fell sharply toward his body for the fourth pitch.

There was also defensive help. In the third inning, Jang Jae-young instinctively caught Seo Ho-chul’s ground ball coming to him in the crisis of Kim Joo-won’s walk and Son Ah-seop’s heavy hit. The throw to second base immediately fell out and almost became a bad pitch, but second baseman Kim Hye-sung caught it and led to a double play. In the match against Park Min-woo, like Park Se-hyuk in the second inning, he caught a strike with a fastball and induced a swing with a breaking ball (slider) that fell toward his body to end the inning.

After that, it was smooth. In the fourth inning, Kim Woong-bin’s two-run timely hit broke out, and Jang Jae-young met the requirement for his first win by disposing of another three outs in the fifth inning. Yang Hyun (1⅔ innings), Kim Jae-woong (1) innings), and Lim Chang-min (1) innings) blocked him from coming down the mound without losing a point, and Jang Jae-young won his first victory in his debut. The Kiwoom dugout glanced at Jang Jae-young every time the out count increased one by one in the ninth inning. During the interview with Su Hoon, there were also players who were in a hurry unlike the team that had a lot of celebratory water baptism. They were more sincere than anyone else in this celebration because they knew Jang Jae-young’s efforts to win their first game.

Jang Jae-young cannot not know the feelings of his colleagues. After the game, he said on the club’s YouTube, “I actually didn’t expect a victory because the opposing pitcher (Peddy) is a really good pitcher. “I played with the idea of at least losing points,” he said adding, “In a way, it’s a small record, but I was too bad before that.” “Now I think I’ve helped the team, so I think I’m very satisfied with that,” he said with a big smile.

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