Israel surprise hosts to clinch quarter-final slot
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.
Pitcher Alex Katz in action in the win over Korea