The Israel Baseball Senior National Team and the Under 18 National team brought home first place trophies one week after the next early this month.
The Senior National Team won its round of the European Championship B Pool in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria on July 6, finishing a perfect 6-0 after defeating favorite Russia in a nail biter till the last out. Even though Team Israel found itself down 3-2 in the 8th inning, Simon Rosenbaum tied it up with a home run that inning. In the 9th inning, 2 passed balls brought in Israel’s winning runs for a 5-3 win and a place in the playoffs against Lithuania next week that will decide the team that will move up to the A Pool.
This tournament was the first in the qualifying rounds for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Other teams that played were Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland and Serbia. Team Israel included 12 Jewish American baseball players who recently made Aliyah, including 6 players from the 2017 Team Israel WBC team. The team was bolstered by native Israeli ballplayers who have grown up and developed in Israel Baseball, including Tal Erel, Asaf Lowengart, Noam Calisar, Ophir Katz, Shlomo Lipetz, Alon Leichman, and Dan Rothem. They played key roles in all the victories. New immigrant Blake Gailen won tournament MVP.
Following close after this unprecedented victory, for the first time Israel Baseball sent an Under 18 National Team to the European Championships qualifiers in Stockholm, Sweden. Israel started the tournament strong, winning its first two games against Sweden and Switzerland 7-4 and 8-2 respectively. After a solid start against Great Britain on Israel’s third day of competition, where the team scored four runs to Britain’s one in the first inning, the tide turned, and the Brits edged ahead, narrowly defeating Israel by one run for a 7-6 win.
The next day, in a high scoring game, Israel once again had victory against Belgium snatched from them after going into the bottom of the last inning four runs up. With a 14-13 win Belgium headed straight for the finals, and, with a record of 2 wins and 2 losses, Israel had to wait for the results of the last round robin game between Great Britain and Sweden to learn that thanks to a good run differential, they were in the finals the next day.
With strong defense and some top quality hitting, Team Israel won the all-important championship game 8-5 after pulling ahead in the penultimate inning by three runs and allowing no more runs from the Belgians. With this victory, Team Israel earned a place in next year’s European Championships. The tournament best hitter award went to Daniel Laderman, who had a stunning .600 batting average, and tournament MVP was Zev Moore.