Games We Play: Blue-and-white brings home 5th from Euros

The Israeli Junior National Baseball Team performs admirably at the PONY European Baseball Championships in Prague.

Israeli PONY baseball team 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli PONY baseball team 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Under cloudy skies, the Israel Junior National Team, led by coach Amit Kurz and manager Yaron Erel, started the PONY European Baseball Championships with a resounding 36-0 victory over Great Britain last Thursday.
(PONY is the premier amateur baseball organization for high school players.)
The dominant triumph was the initial game in the four-game preliminary round, with the top two teams in Israel’s division advancing to the playoff round on Sunday.
Israel’s offensive stars in this first game were too numerous to mention, with even the substitute batters piling up base-hits and RBIs.
The hitting barrage enabled Israel to remove starting pitcher Yoni Alter after two innings, so that he could start again in the evening game. Before the early exit, Alter helped his cause with an RBI triple in the second inning, during which Israel scored 22 times.
Team Israel then won its second game, defeating Tempo Prague 7-4. The game was scoreless heading into the third inning after Israel squandered run scoring opportunities in each of its first two stanzas.
Ori Gutin led off the third with a walk, stole second, and scored on Alter’s triple.
Alter then scored on Gilad Zwilling’s RBI single.
Meir Ginensky, who earlier hit a double to rightfield, knocked in Ilan Klein with an RBI single as Israel scored four runs in the inning to take a lead it never relinquished.
The game was still tense in the bottom half of the fifth when, with a Prague runner on second base and Israel leading 7-4, a Prague batter hit a sharp sinking line drive to rightfield, on which Roye Shalem made a diving catch to clinch the win.
Team Israel advanced to the playoff round by splitting a double-header on Friday to finish the preliminary round with a 3-1 record.
Israel lost the first playoff game to the 2010 defending champions of the Czech Republic by a score of 8-0.
The game was close through three innings, but the blue-and-white players committed multiple errors in the fourth, allowing the Czechs to ruin Yoel Sigal’s fine pitching performance.
Israel bounced back in the nightcap, crushing the Romanians 12-0 behind a combined no-hitter hurled by Zwilling and Klein.
Alter hit his third triple of the tournament in the first inning to knock in the first run, and then scored on Klein’s RBI single as the Israelis never looked back.
Catcher Tal Erel eliminated the Romanians sole threat by throwing out a player attempting to steal to close out the second inning.
Unfortunately, the title dream ended on Sunday, when Team Israel lost in the playoff round, 2-1 to the eventual champions, The Ambassadors, an all-star team comprised of sons of US armed forces personnel stationed In Germany.
Israel took the lead in the top of the first when Gutin singled sharply to left, was sacrificed to second by Sam Cogan, and came around to score on a single by Alter.
The Ambassadors tied the score in the bottom of the frame by capitalizing on a pair of Israeli errors and a trio of walks.
The game then settled into an incredible pitching duel, as Alter simply dominated the Americans, mixing a blistering fastball and wellplaced curves.
Israel had several chances to take the lead in the fourth and fifth innings, when both Gutin and Yisrael Gilbert hit doubles, but failed to get any further.
The Ambassadors won the game in the bottom of the seventh when they hit a pair of one-out singles to put runners on the corners, and then scoring the winning run on a sharp grounder against the drawn in Infield.
In the end, Israel finished in fifth place out of the 20- team pool, a two-spot improvement from their seventh- place finish in 2010.