The Israel Association of Baseball has announced that its senior national team has won the B Pool of the Confederation of European Baseball’s European Championships.
The team beat Lithuania in the playoff round played last Friday and Saturday, winning the first two games in the best of three in Utena, Lithuania.
Team Israel will now play in the A Pool tournament of the European Championships starting September 7 in Bonn, Germany, facing teams from Czech Republic, Belgium, Austria, Great Britain and Netherlands in their group. The top five teams out of the total of 12 teams in the tournament will move on to the Olympic Games qualifiers for Europe and Africa to take place in Parma Italy on September 18-22.
Team Israel dominated play in the B Pool, and swept all eight games through the first round and the playoff competition. In the first round of the B Pool in Bulgaria in early July, Israel won all six of its games to advance to the best of three playoff. In the playoff, Israel shut down Lithuania over two games, scoring a total of 27 runs over the two days (to Lithuania’s two) including nine home runs – two each for Simon Rosenbaum, Rob Paller and Jeremy Wolf. Dominant pitching by Gabe Cramer, Eric Brodkowitz and Joey Wagman led Israel to their two wins against Lithuania.
Team Israel came in second place two years ago in the B Pool, and was bolstered this year by 14 professional American baseball players who made aliyah to assist Team Israel in their Olympic bid. Six of them played for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, where Israel finished in 6th place.
“The A Pool is not our goal,” said Peter Kurz, IAB president and general manager of Team Israel. “Our goal is to reach the Olympic Qualifiers after the A Pool. In a short A Pool series, with our pitching, anything can happen.” To reach the qualifiers, Israel must finish in the top 5 of 12 teams in the A Pool. Kurz believes that goal is attainable: “Our team represents the best of Israel Baseball, with players who have vast experience both on the professional stage as well as in colleges. Their motivation is at an all-time high to represent Israel on this international stage and to go all the way to Tokyo in 2020.”