Team Israel will play Team France in the quarterfinals of the European Baseball Championships in Germany on Friday, after finishing second in Pool A.
Israel lost 13-4 to the Netherlands, the current European champion, in its final round robin game on Wednesday. With Shlomo Lipetz on the mound, Israel started strong with a two-run home run from Danny Valencia in the first inning. The Netherlands evened up the game in the next inning, and followed with a strong batting performance. Israel was able to add two runs in the sixth inning but weren’t able to hold off the Dutch, who had four home runs in the contest.
Israel came into the final round robin game leading its pool with four wins, having beaten Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany and Great Britain. The Netherlands had three wins, and one loss to the Czechs. With both teams at 4-1, the tie breaker was the head to head. As a result, Israel heads to the playoffs in second position. The squad faces France, which finished the B Pool with three wins and two losses.
“We looked very strong throughout the week,” said general manager and Israel Association of Baseball president Peter Kurz. “We are now focused on our next goal, which is to make it into the top five teams in the tournament.” A top five tournament finish will automatically send Team Israel to the Olympic Games Qualifiers taking place in Parma, Italy next week.
“We faced some extremely strong teams this week,” noted Kurz. “The fact that we were able to beat these tough competitors is a great credit to all the players and the staff. We are ready for the next phase and look forward to representing Israel in general and Israel Baseball in particular with pride.”
Israel started the round-robin stage strongly, beating perennial contender Czech Republic 6-1 in its first ever European Championships game. After yielding the first run of the contest, Blake Gailen homered to right field in the third inning. In the seventh inning, catcher Nick Rickles hit a line-drive down the right field line with the bases loaded, bringing home Mitch Glasser, Ty Kelly and Gailen. Valencia then drove in Rickles for the fourth run of the inning. Gailen added an RBI single in the eighth.
On Sunday, Israel eked out a 4-3 win over Sweden despite stranding 13 runners on base. Pitcher Jon Moscot claimed the win. Jeremy Wolf singled in the game’s first run. Sweden went ahead, but Israel tied the score on an RBI-single by Gailen in the fourth. Down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, pinch runner Assaf Lowengart tied the game on a wild pitch, and Wolf walked with the bases loaded to send Valenica home for the winning run.
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It took 10 innings for Israel to defeat Germany 4-2 on Monday. Consecutive doubles by Glasser and Rickles gave Israel a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Israel struggled to break through offensively, but strong pitching from David Sharabi, Zack Weiss, and Jonathan DeMarte held Germany at two runs. In the tiebreaking 10th, in which the inning starts with two players on base according to European rules, Valencia was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and then Glasser scored on a single by Rickles. Bailen was thrown out at home.
However, Benjamin Wanger followed up two batters later with a sacrifice fly to left field. Dean Pelman relieved DeMarte to pitch a scoreless inning and preserve Israel’s third consecutive victory. Israel took the fourth game 7-4 against Great Britain, overcoming an early three-run homer by Ben Andrews. After Valencia singled to tie the game at 3-all in the fifth, Gailen homered in the seventh to make it 5-3. Simon Rosenbaum singled in the sixth run, while Gailen blasted his second home run to open the ninth for Israel’s final score of the day.