BEIJING — South Korea sent baseball out of the Olympic Games in a blaze of glory Saturday.
For Cuba, though, where baseball has religious-like status, the final score brought all the joy of a funeral on a rainy day.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
The Koreans escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the ninth to edge Cuba 3-2 in the gold-medal game at Wukesong Olympic Baseball Field.
Earlier Saturday, the United States won the bronze medals, rallying for an 8-4 victory over Japan.
The games marked the end of Olympic baseball for now. Baseball and softball will be dropped from the program for the 2012 Games.
“It was a great game,” said Davey Johnson, Team USA’s manager. “Our bats woke up. Brett (Anderson) pitched a great ball game.”
Anderson struck out six and walked three over seven innings. Kevin Jepsen closed with two shutout innings.
That was just a warmup act for Cuba-Korea, though.
Korean left-hander Ryu Hun-jin, a 6-foot-2, 216-pounder, held Cuba to four hits through eight innings, taking a 3-2 lead into the ninth.
“I stood in the field tonight and had one goal in my mind. That was to win a gold medal,” Hun-jin said. “I wanted to perform well throughout the game but at the end of the ninth inning, I felt a little bit nervous.”
A leadoff single by Hector Olivera and back-to-back one-out walks loaded the bases.
Kim Kyung-moon, the Korean manager, summoned right-handed submarine-baller Chong Tae-hyon.
After firing two strikes, Tae-hyon got Yulieski Gourriel to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
South Korea (8-0) medaled in Olympic baseball only one other time, bronze in the 2000 Sydney Games. Defending champion Cuba (6-2) won three of the previous four Olympics. Team USA upset the Cubans in the 2000 gold-medal game.
Cuba expected gold Saturday. But so did Korea.
Afterward, Bong Jung-keun, a pitcher, filled a bottle with dirt from the Olympic mound.
“I’m going to keep it until I die,” he said. “I will show it to my son — he is 13 months old — when he grows up. I will show him my gold medal and my dirt.”