Olympic-dreaming Israel rolling in Italy

Blue-and-white makes it two wins in a row at Europe/Africa qualification tournament by beating Dutch 8-1.

TEAM ISRAEL'S Nick Rickles connects for a two-run homer in the first inning of the blue-and-white's 8-1 victory over the Netherlands on Thursday night.  (photo credit: MARGO SUGARMAN)
TEAM ISRAEL'S Nick Rickles connects for a two-run homer in the first inning of the blue-and-white's 8-1 victory over the Netherlands on Thursday night.
(photo credit: MARGO SUGARMAN)
Team Israel took another important step toward Tokyo 2020 by overpowering the No. 1 seed, the Netherlands, by a score of 8-1 in Parma, Italy, on Thursday night. Former Cincinnati Reds right-hander Jon Moscot opened the game with four strong innings of one-run ball.
In the bottom of first, Israel catcher Nick Rickles put the blue-and-white in the lead with a two-out, two-run line shot that cleared the leftfield wall, scoring Danny Valencia.     
The Dutch immediately came back with two consecutive doubles, narrowing the gap to 2-1 and reminding the Israelis that they weren't ranked eighth in the world for nothing. A ground-out and and walk set runners at the corners and threatened to make Moscot's life very unpleasant, but then  the  former Reds pitcher induced a rally-killing double play, a pitcher’s best friend,
In the bottom of the second, Israel loaded the bases for lead-off hitter Mitch Glasser, who lined a bases-clearing double into the left centerfield gap, making it 5-1.
A walk set up first and second for Valencia, who had connected for a home run in each of the previous five games. Danny V  pounced on a pitch for what looked like HR number six, but the ball  hit the top of the wall,  driving in one run, but the runner from first was called out at the plate. 
It stayed 6-1 with both pitchers settling into a rhythm as the game went into the fifth. Israel manager Eric Holtz turned the ball over to former Oakland A's lefty Jeremy Bleich, who provided  two innings of three-up and three- down, earning himself the W.
Israel loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth when Rob Paller stroked what looked like a multiple-run double. One run scored making it 7-1, but a Dutch outfield relay throw nailed yet another  Israeli baserunner at home.
However by this time, holding the Israelis to only one run seemed as effective as sticking a finger in a dike, and the blue-and-white tacked on an eighth-inning run making it 8-1 to round out the scoring.
David Sharabi and closer Jonathan DeMarte shut out the Netherlands the rest of the way, taming the powerful Dutch bats, which had earned them the European Championship just last week as they amassed a team batting average over .300.
While its confidence continues to rise, Team Israel is approaching its Friday test against host Italy as yet another "against all odds" must-win. The Italians narrowly edged the blue-and-white in last week's European Championship on their way to a second-place finish and they are determined to provide their home crowd with a reason to cheer.  
Friday's game promises to be one of the key battles of the tournament which may determines who goes on to Tokyo.
One Olympic spot will be awarded to the winner of the six-team Europe-Africa qualifier tournament , which features Israel, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and South Africa. The second-place team in Italy will get another qualification opportunity for the Olympics in the final world qualifying event.
For more information anout the tournament, and up-to-date results, please visit www.olympicbaseball.wbsc.org/en/2019