Israel’s fairy-tale run at the World Baseball Classic continued on Tuesday with a resounding 15-7 rout of Chinese Taipei in Seoul, putting the blue-and-white on the verge of qualification for the last eight of the tournament.
Israel’s national team got its campaign off to a dream start on Monday, claiming a 2-1 win in 10 innings against host South Korea, which is ranked No. 3 in the world and is a twotime medalist at the WBC. Israel dominated Chinese Taipei, which is ranked No. 4, from the start of Tuesday’s affair, coming out of the gate with four consecutive hits and scoring four runs in the top of the first inning.Ryan Lavarnway added a two-run home run in the third inning and Nate Freiman capped the impressive victory with a three-run shot in the ninth as Israel’s balanced offense combined for 20 hits.Chinese Taipei briefly closed the gap in the bottom of the sixth, scoring three runs to cut Israel’s lead to 6-3. But the blue-and-white effectively secured the victory by scoring five more times in the seventh.Israel had 10 different players record a hit, including four players with three hits and two others with multiple hits. Freiman drove in four runs, Tyler Krieger drove in three, and Ike Davis and Lavarnway each contributed two RBIs.Pitcher Corey Baker got the win for Israel with 42/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out three. The 27-year-old right-hander is in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization and reached Triple- A last season.Israel will complete its Pool A games when it faces the Netherlands on Thursday, but already looks set for a place in the last eight.The top two teams in the pool will advance to second round Pool E, which will also include two sides from Pool B, which is being contested between Japan, Cuba, Australia and China.Pool E will be played in Tokyo, Japan, with the top two to then progress to the semifinals at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.“One of the goals is to not put the cart before the horse,” said Israel manager Jerry Weinstein. “We’re not in the second round yet. We’re preparing for the game with the Netherlands and that’s what we’re thinking about right now.“My experience has been that when you start getting ahead of yourself, you get out in the future, you’re not taking care of the present. We need to take care of what we’re doing here right now and when we know we’re going to be in next round, then we’ll start talking about the next round.”Israel is participating in the event for the first time in its history, qualifying after one previous failure.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.“You know, for us, or for me, this is a huge deal to help possibly maybe kick‑start baseball in Israel,” said Davis. “It’s not as big as we’d like, and I think we can maybe change that with what we’re doing.”
Team Israel World Baseball Classic practicing (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL)