(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the fourth consecutive year, Israel participated in the PONY European
Baseball Championships in Prague for the 16-and-under age bracket, led by
coaches Amit Kurz and Orr Gottlieb from Israel, Richard Kania from Prague and
manager Yaron Erel.
For the first time, Israel not only cracked the top-4
in the tournament, but reached the championship game against the German national
The difference from previous showings was timely hitting
throughout the lineup, particularly by Adam Miller (Ra’anana) who was among the
tournament batting leaders in several categories.
The tournament began
last Thursday with an easy 26-0 victory for the blue-and-white over
Israeli pitchers Yotam Ben Amram (Tel Aviv) and Mordy Roth
(Yuvalim) combined on a perfect game.
Avi Watson (Beit Shemesh) had five
RBIs, including a triple.
Friday featured a double-header that started
Israel faced the Slovenian national team and raced to an 8-0 lead
behind Ben Amram’s solid start. Looking to save his arm for later games, Ben
Amram was relieved in the sixth inning by Miller, who yielded four consecutive
Tal Erel (Tel Aviv), who had three RBIs in the game, closed out the
late Slovenian rally. Shortstop Noam Calissar (Tel Aviv) scored twice from the
leadoff spot, reaching base on a double and a single.
The night-cap was
tougher, as Israel faced the Czech national academy.
Starter Binyamin Mor
(Beit Shemesh) threw four innings, yielding five runs (three earned) in the
second inning, with Israel leading 2-1 following a controversial balk call that
the umpiring crew later admitted was mistaken. The final score of 6-2 did not
reflect the closeness of the contest.
With a 2-1 record in pool play,
Israel advanced to the playoff round.
The first playoff game was played
on Saturday night, after Shabbat ended, under rainy skies and 6-degree weather.
The opponent was a leading Prague team, Kotlarka, which finished in first place
in its pool.
Nevertheless, Israel dominated, winning 12-1 behind Erel’s
dominant start and excellent hitting throughout the lineup.
put Israel in the semifinals for the first time.
The semi was played
early Sunday morning versus the Lithuanian national team. Israel raced to a 5-1
lead and looked poised to ride into the championship game until the defense
committed several costly errors that enabled Lithuania to take a 9-5 lead into
the last inning.
With typical Israeli determination, though, the local
boys fought back, tying the game on a bases-load single by Yoav Halper (Gezer )
and winning on Roth’s RBI single.
Mor notched the win in
Facing a very tough German national academy in the championship,
Israel ran out of gas, and pitchers. More started but the Germans bashed their
way to a 15-1 win.
Nevertheless, the blue-and-white boys returned home
extremely proud of their achievement, ready to take on the Americans and
Canadians in this summer’s Maccabiah Games.