Int'l Baseball: Israel impresses in Euro Qualifier

National team plays its way to 2-2 record in 2008 European Championship Qualifier in Croatia, finishing third in 5-team group.

Modiin Miracle 298.88 (photo credit: Nathaniel Edelstein)
Modiin Miracle 298.88
(photo credit: Nathaniel Edelstein)
The Israeli national baseball team played its way to a 2-2 record in the 2008 European Championship Qualifier in Karlovac, Croatia, last week, finishing third in its five-team group. The group was won by the heavy favorite Croatia, which in turn advances to the 2009 European Baseball Championships. The group also included Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Serbia. A total of 23 teams competed across Europe for the final five slots of the 12-team tournament for next year's championship, where the Netherlands will defend Europe's baseball crown following their 2007 victory. Israel stumbled out of the gate with consecutive losses to Bulgaria and Croatia, before finishing the tournament strong with back-to-back victories against Serbia and Lithuania. The final game against Lithuania went to extra innings, where Shlomo Lipitz advanced to 2-0 in the tournament. In pitching a 10-inning gem, he scattered four hits and just one run pitching a complete game, while also striking out six batters. One of the highlights for the Israeli team was second baseman Oren Gal being named group MVP. Despite playing for a third-place team, Gal received the honors for leading the entire group with nine hits for the tournament, including four for extra bases, finishing with a ridiculous .529 batting average. Oren Gal, a Canada native, played for the Modi'in Miracle of the Israel Baseball League last season.