Team Israel began its quest for a ticket to Tokyo 2020 with a convincing 3-0 victory over Spain in Parma, Italy on Wednesday.
Right-hander Joey Wagman pitched a complete game shutout and was clicking on all cylinders as he held the Spaniards to only three hits. “Wags” didn’t allow a single base-runner to advance beyond first until the ninth inning, while striking out eight and walking none.
Danny Valencia provided Team Israel with all the runs it would need in the top of the first inning, blasting a two-run homer. Valencia continued a red-hot streak that began in last week’s European Championship, as he has hit a home run in five consecutive games. Coming up again in the fifth inning with the bases loaded, Valencia just missed a grand slam, but his long sacrifice fly gave Wagman an insurance run and completed the scoring for the day.
Team Israel’s defense turned every into a stellar performance to support their star pitcher. In the ninth inning, after a leadoff single, Spanish center fielder Engel Beltre lined a rocket toward right that would have put men on first and third with no outs, and probably would have sent Wagman to the showers. First baseman Benny Wanger made a diving stop that deflected the ball towards second baseman Mitch Glasser, who acrobatically reversed direction and threw out the speedy Beltre, allowing Wagman to finish the game.
Shortstop Ty Kelly and third baseman Zach Penprase also performed solidly both in the field and at bat. Penpase was also the only hitter to notch two hits – both line shots – and Kelly scorched a triple down the right field line.
The victory positioned Israel and the Netherlands atop the standings in the six-team Olympic Qualifier. The opening day win provides momentum for manager Eric Holtz’s Team Israel, which faces off against the Netherlands on Thursday night at 9 p.m. Israel time. The game can be watched live online at gametime.sport.