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The juvenile national baseball team bounced back from a 9-5 loss to Poland to beat Belarus 6-5 in a thrilling, comefrom-behind victory in the second game of a doubleheader at the European Baseball Championships in Hluboka Nad Vitavou, Czech Republic, on Wednesday.
The win improved Israel's record to 3-2 and guaranteed it at least a fourth place finish, which, according to Zaq Harrison, team manager and coach, is the highest that a juvenile (ages 10-12) team has ever finished in the tournament. If the team can beat Russia in its final group-stage game on Thursday, it will have a chance to reach the championship game.
After beating Austria the day before, Israel came into Wednesday's doubleheader with renewed belief in its abilities and a strong desire to win. But the first game of the doubleheader didn't start well for the Israelis, who gave up two runs in the first inning.
After Israel came back to tie the game at 3-3, the blue-and-white lost their composure in the fourth and gave up five runs and four walks.
That first game was in large part dominated by good Polish hitting, which combined for nine runs off of eight hits, including one home run.
The real trouble for Israel was not its hitting but its pitching, which allowed six earned runs and five walks in the losing effort.
Israel showed up ready to play against last place Belarus in the second game. Yonatan Schechter was the starting pitcher and threw four innings, giving up no earned runs. Raya Ben-David, one of the two girls on the team, then came in and allowed only two earned runs and five hits, while striking out two, in three innings of work.
"Raya and Yoni Schechter were the real stars today," Harrison told The Jerusalem Post.
Despite the good pitching, Israel was down by one run going into the bottom of the seventh. Ben-David led off the inning with a hit, and later scored the tying run. Israel then suffered a devastating blow when the potential winning run was thrown out at the plate on a close play. With Israel's hopes of victory dwindling, Yoni Alter made the game-winning hit in the bottom of the seventh inning, securing the victory for Israel.
"Overall, they have surpassed the expectations - they have hit better than any juvenile team in memory," said Chaim Katz, president of the Israeli Association of Baseball.