Team Israel officially made it to the quarterfinal of the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday after the Netherlands beat Chinese Taipei 6-5 in Seoul, South Korea. After a dramatic game, the winning run – a walk-off walk – punched the Dutch ticket to Tokyo. It also guaranteed Israel's slot.
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Team Israel will face the Netherlands at 5:00 A.M. Thursday Israel time, vying for bragging rights and first place in their bracket. Israel and the Netherlands both hold 2-0 records, while South Korea and Taiwan are at 0-2 in Pool A play.
Cinderella Israel stunned South Korea 2-1 in the tournament's extra-innings opener and followed up with a 15-7 win over Chinese Taipei.
Heavily-favored Netherlands beat South Korea 5-0 on Tuesday.
Israel will lead-off Thursday with right-hander Jason Marquis, a free agent. Marquis will face right-hander Rob Cordemans, a veteran player on the Dutch national team.
The Dutch ninth-ranked roster includes quite a few Major League celebrities, such as Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious, Texas Ranger Jurickson Profar and Baltimore Orioles' second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
Gregorious played the designated hitter spot against Taiwan, coming up with three substantial doubles and batting in the tying run in the eighth inning. Profar drew the critical bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth to push in the winning run.
Underdog Israel started the tournament ranked 41st, fielding a team of mostly Minor Leaguers. World Baseball Classic regulations allow any athlete eligible for citizenship to play for a team, making many Jewish American baseball players eligible to play for Israel.
Israel's roster includes former Mets' first baseman Ike Davis, Josh Zeid, a Mets Double-A pitcher, Sam Fuld, with the Oakland A's, Milwaukee Brewers' Cody Decker and Corey Baker who pitches for a Cardinals' farm team.
Pool A quarterfinalists will face the two leading teams from Pool B (Japan, Cuba, Australia and China) in Tokyo starting March 12. The quarterfinal berth also automatically qualifies Team Israel for the next World Baseball Classic, which will be played in 2021.