Israel’s national baseball team is hoping for a repeat of their dramatic performance in the World Baseball Classic.
The team last appeared in the 2017 tournament , where they won their first four games. They were eventually eliminated in the second round of the tournament, after a win by the host team, Japan.
The Israeli baseball team’s first game against Nicaragua on Sunday gave them a 3-1 comeback win. Israel was down 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning, when team member Spencer Horwitz hit a line-drive single that allowed Jakob Goldfarb to reach home plate, scoring the team’s first run.
Later, with bases loaded and two outs, Israel’s Garrett Stubbs hit the ball into left field with a ground-rule double that brought two runners in, winning the game at 3-1.
Israel’s team faces tough competition in its pool. On Monday night, the team will play against Puerto Rico. Stubbs, who brought in Israel’s winning runs, called this “the pool of death.”
Only the top two teams from each pool advance to the next round, so Israel has to win at least two more games before advancing.
The top four teams from each pool automatically qualify for the next World Baseball Classic, which means that even if Israel is eliminated in this round, one more win would still qualify Israel for the next tournament.
The Israeli team will face the Dominican Republic and then Venezuela, after playing Puerto Rico. Unlike Major League Baseball tournaments, in the World Baseball Classic, each team plays against only one opponent at a time.
“When you’re playing one game, as opposed to a series, anything can happen. The team understands that. It’s not necessarily the best team that wins the game, it’s the team that plays the best that day,” said Israeli team manager Ian Kensler.
“So we have just as good a shot as anybody and we’re gonna give our best shot and try to make things interesting in Pool D,” he said
Kensler is a retired Major League Baseball All-Star player, and played for Team Israel in the 2020 Olympics. He also was on the U.S. winning team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Tournament rules allow players to participate on a team if they are eligible for citizenship in that country, without requiring them to actually hold citizenship. Because of this rule, Team Israel’s roster includes many American Jews who play in either Major League Baseball or in the minor leagues.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.