Ra'anana PTC "Wildfire" stormed back from a 7-1 deficit to edge a depleted national team 10-8 in a thrilling final of the Israel Association of Baseball's senior fall league.
Emboldened by its semifinal playoff win over the Tel Aviv Reds, the youthful Ra'anana squad, shored up by a number of stalwarts from its junior program, came in eager to cap off its campaign with a championship. However, atrocious defense put the team in an big, early hole against its more experienced counterparts, doing injustice to Ra'anana's fine young pitching prospect, new Cuban oleh Yeoandray Gil-Levy, who was starting his third big game in two weeks.
Meanwhile, national team fireballer George Chityat breezed through the first four innings, allowing only one run and no hits, keeping the ball in the infield, and far away from the gaps left by the presence of only two outfielders.
But the Wildfire refused to surrender, and began its comeback in the fifth inning with three runs, sparked by consecutive hits by Nate Rosenberg and Mike Ralson. Ralson's subsequent mad dash home from third base, following a pop up to second base, undoubtedly lit up the Wildfire.
A wholesale defensive realignment and the entry of relief pitcher Elad Cohen stabilized PTC in the field. In the top of the seventh, Ra'anana closed the gap to 8-7 against a tiring Chityat, as Guy Peled started another three-run rally with a double, which was capped by a crucial two-out, two-run sharp single by Gil-Levy and an RBI single by Amit Megiddo.
In the eighth and last inning, Ra'anana finally grabbed the lead off of relief pitcher Omri Modiano, who had thrown a fine complete game for his Tel Aviv squad only five days earlier. Another hit by Peled kept Ra'anana's hopes alive, as did a two-out error by the national team's third-baseman. The tying run then scored on a wild pitch, and the go-ahead runs were provided by a huge two-run triple by Litz.
But the last act of the drama was yet to come. Moishe Lewis led off with a single, and advanced to second base on an error. But attempting to steal third, he was promptly thrown out by Cohen.
Consecutive base hits by Asaf Rotem and Rafi Stern put runners on first and second, but Cohen induced the dangerous Orr Gottlieb to pop up for the second out. Chityat then singled to load the bases, putting the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on first. Cohen quickly went to a 3-0 count against Modiano, and the Ra'anana bullpen stirred.
However, the young right-hander showed true grit, pumping in a letters-high fastball for strike one, another one which Modiano fouled straight back, and finally, with the runners moving, yet another fastball for a swinging strike three, touching off a jubilant Ra'anana celebration that continued long into the night.