When Team Israel steps onto the field September 22 for the World Baseball Classic qualifying round in Brooklyn, the roster will feature well-known names – such as former New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis – as well as a few surprises..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CONEY ISLAND, New York - Israel rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday night against two Great Britain relievers, taking the lead and the game, 5-2.
The important first win in this modified double-elimination weekend tournament, being played at the home of the Mets' Class A affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones, earned Israel a spot in the winner's bracket game against Brazil on Friday at noon. Should Israel beat Brazil – which won over Pakistan on Thursday afternoon, 10-0 – they will play in Sunday’s championship game at 6 p.m. All games are being streamed live on WorldBaseballClassic.com.
The seventh-inning rally began when four of the first five Israeli hitters reached base against reliever Vaughan Harris. Left fielder Rhett Wiseman singled and scored the tying run on Mike Meyers' sacrifice fly. A batter later, Zach Borenstein's sharp RBI single scored Scott Burcham with the go-ahead run.
Former New York Mets Ike Davis then pinch hit and battled through a nine pitch at-bat, fouling off three straight 3-2 pitches from Nolan Bond before knocking a run-scoring single off the mound and up the middle to score Burcham.
“Pinch hitting is never the easiest task, but I got in a great situation where all I had to do was hit a fly ball and get an RBI to add on to the lead,” said Davis. “I kept fouling off fastballs, and then got to a 3-2 count and squared up the baseball. Basically, I found a pitch I can handle.”
Davis was followed by Padres Minor Leaguer Cody Decker, whose sacrifice fly to the warning track off reliever Nolan Bond narrowly missed being a grand slam. Former Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow got the win for Israel. The 11-year MLB veteran struck out two in his lone inning of work, in relief Josh Zeid, who allowed one run and struck out six in 3 2/3 innings of relief. Israeli pitchers overall struck out 11 batters.
Former Red Sox, Orioles and Braves catcher Ryan Lavarnway rapped three hits and scored a run, while Decker doubled to go with his sacrifice fly.
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Team Israel’s starter who went three innings – there’s a strict pitch-count limit in the WBC tournament - was 38-year-old Jason Marquis, the 15-year MLB veteran who last pitched with the Reds in 2015. Marquis, a local native from Staten Island, allowed one run on two hits, with a fastball ranging around 85 MPH.
“I thought I had pretty good command of my fastball most of the night,” Marquis said. “My split wasn’t as sharp as I would like it to be, which is expected. You just try to use your experience and competitiveness to get through it and surprisingly I felt pretty good if they needed me to go deeper into the game.”
Marquis also spoke after the game about how he felt playing for Israel.
"It brings pride to my heritage and tradition, and at the same time they are meaningful games," said Marquis. "They mean a lot to the country of Israel and for raising awareness for the game I love so much." Only some 4,000 fans showed up, a disappointing attendance considering the huge Jewish fan base in New York. Those who did show up cheered enthusiastically for Israel, making it seem like a home game for the blue and white.
Davis, who played five seasons with the Mets and eight games with the Yankees, was greeted like a returning son by fans.
“People still embrace me here,” said Davis. “I don’t know why that’s true, but I appreciate it.”
Josh Satin, also a former Met, was equally surprised to discover the fan support.
“When I was playing for the Mets, it was Ike and I — we were the Jews in New York,” Satin said. “I was just a two-year utility player, but I felt like the city gravitated toward me. A kid would come up to say hello, and I’d say: ‘How do you recognize me? I play once a month.’” The team of 26 Americans and two Israelis know they are playing to help grow baseball in Israel.
“You have 28 guys who are really proud to be Jewish, raising awareness for Israel baseball and Jewish people,” said Zeid. “You guys saw the crowd today. If we win, it will build support for baseball in Israel.”
Decker agreed. "Israel had a great increase in baseball participation after we played in 2012. Hopefully we can build on that this time around." The win in the first game felt particularly satisfying for the team, which is still smarting from its heartbreaking, extra-innings elimination loss in the World Baseball Classic qualifier four years ago. For the eight players on this year’s team who played in 2012, the painful defeat is still fresh in their minds.
"That wound never healed for us," said third baseman Decker. "Every time we see each other, we always bring it up." Fourteen hours after defeating Great Britain, Israel will take the field again on Friday at noon against Brazil, with a chance to advance into Sunday’s finale with a victory. If they win, it’s off to Seoul, South Korea, next March for the big tournament.
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