Korea looks to wrap up Pool 1

Familiar foe Japan awaits in seeding game for Classic semifinals

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SAN DIEGO -- The familiar foes will come together again.

On Thursday, Korea will take on Japan to determine the top seed from Pool 1 for the semifinals this weekend in Los Angeles. The United States and Venezuela have already qualified for the next round from Pool 2.

Korea is 5-1 in World Baseball Classic play this year and 2-1 against Japan. Overall, Korea is 11-2 in Classic play dating to 2006.

"The most important thing is we became one of the four finalists," Korea manager In Sik Kim said. "I think Japan is at a higher level than us [in baseball], but that doesn't mean you always win. Sometimes they lose."

Wonsam Jang will take the mound for Korea. The left-handed pitcher went 12-8 with a 2.85 ERA for Woori Heroes in Korea last season. He is 0-0 with a 7.71 ERA in 2 1/3 World Baseball Classic innings this year.

Japan will counter with left-hander Tetsuya Utsumi, who is making his first tournament appearance.

Utsumi will have his work cut out for him. Tae Kyun Kim leads Korea's hitters with nine RBIs and a .421 batting average in this year's tournament. He has drawn five walks and has a .789 slugging percentage. Dae Ho Lee and Jin Young Lee are each hitting .364 and overall, seven Korean hitters have a batting average higher than .300.

"I think we are at the same level, and I think they are our rival," Lee said. "That's our mind-set."

On Tuesday, Korean starter Jung Keun Bong outpitched Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish and limited the Japanese offense to one run on three hits in his 5 1/3 innings pitched in the 4-1 victory.

"As always, the important thing for the Korean team is concentrating," outfielder Yong-Kyu Lee said. "Every player is happy about this [win], but this is not the end of it. There are more games left for us to play, and we will keep on doing our best."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.