Israel enters the last eight of the World Baseball Classic with a perfect record after registering its third straight win on Thursday, beating the Netherlands 4-2 in Seoul, South Korea.Israel had secured its progress to next week’s action in Tokyo prior to the game after the Netherlands defeated Chinese Taipei on Wednesday.Thursday’s showdown with the Dutch was mainly about maintaining momentum, with both teams having qualified for the last eight and the only difference between finishing in first or second place in Pool A being the eventual schedule in Tokyo.Israel, nevertheless, wanted to enter the quarterfinal round on a high, and made sure it did so after once more getting off to a fast start. The blue-andwhite scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back. Pitcher Jason Marquis got the win for Israel, allowing one hit in the opening inning, the only one he pitched.Israel coach Jerry Weinstein divided the innings between nine different pitchers, aiming to keep everyone fresh for next week. Josh Zeid got the save having pitched the final 12/3, the most of any pitcher.
Israel finished Pool A with a 3-0 record after also claiming a 2-1 win in 10 innings against host South Korea in its opener before beating Chinese Taipei 15-7 on Tuesday.As well as the Netherlands, Israel will face in last eight Pool E the top two teams from Pool B, which is being contested between Japan, Cuba, Australia and China.Pool E will be played at the Tokyo Dome from Sunday, with the top two after three games each to progress to the semifinals at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.Israel will face the Pool B runner- up on Sunday, the Netherlands on Monday and the Pool B winner on Wednesday.“I think that coming into the tournament, a lot of people saw us as huge underdogs, but we never saw it that way,” Israel right fielder Zach Borenstein said. “And as far as what it means for Israel, it’s huge. It gives more recognition to baseball and hopefully more attention on baseball and Israel.”Leading 4-1 in the eighth inning on Thursday, Israel found itself in potential trouble when the Netherlands loaded the bases with one out and two of its stars, the Baltimore Orioles’ Jonathan Schoop and the New York Yankees’ Didi Gregorius, coming up. But right-hander Josh Zeid - who also closed out Israel’s Classic- opening win over Korea - got out of the jam with only one run coming across.Israel is the first team to go undefeated in the first round of the Classic’s main draw after emerging from one of the qualifiers.The competition’s eligibility rules, which permit a player to represent a nation as long as he is qualified for citizenship or to hold a passport under the laws of that nation, allow Israel to benefit from a large pool of American-Jewish players. Of the roster’s 29 players, only three are Israeli citizens, with 11 of the players having MLB experience.“Our goal going into Tokyo is the same as our goal coming into Seoul, and that’s to advance to the next round,” Israel first baseman Nate Freiman said.“Coming into Seoul, saying we are coming into this pool and we want to advance, that might have struck some people as a little unlikely. But I think now, maybe a little bit less.”
Team Israel World Baseball Classic practicing (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL)