Is­rael sur­prise hosts to clinch quar­ter-fi­nal slot

The Jewish Chronicle - - SPORT - BY SI­MON GRIVER

BASE­BALL IS­RAEL have made a stun­ning de­but at the World Base­ball Clas­sic in Seoul with vic­to­ries over South Korea and Chi­nese Taipei.

The tour­na­ment un­der­dogs qual­i­fied for the quar­ter-fi­nals in Tokyo next week as a top two fin­isher, prior to their fi­nal group match against the Nether­lands.

Is­rael scored a dra­matic 2-1 vic­tory over South Korea in their open­ing match, with Scott Bur­cham hit­ting the win­ning run in the 10th in­nings.

Against Taipei, Is­rael wrapped up the game ear­lier, racing into a 6-0 lead by the end of the third in­nings thanks to bighit­ting Ryan Lavarn­way and the pitch­ing of Corey Baker. Is­rael went on to tri­umph 15-7 and their progress is all the more re­mark­able as South Korea and Taipei are ranked third and fourth in the world while Is­raeli sit 41st.

Lavarn­way said: “It means a lot that we’re here, that we’re com­pet­ing in a sport on the high­est level, and we have the right to be here.”

Play­ers need only be el­i­gi­ble for Is­raeli cit­i­zen­ship to play for the team. Al­most all the 29-man squad are Amer­i­can Jews with only three Is­raeli cit­i­zens mak­ing the cut.

Eleven of the play­ers have Ma­jor League Base­ball ex­pe­ri­ence but the top US Jewish starts stayed away due to the ma­jor travel com­mit­ment.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Pitcher Alex Katz in ac­tion in the win over Korea

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