In a magnificent sweep of the B Pool of the European Championships, Team Israel has moved into the A Pool for the first time in Israel Baseball history.
Team Israel was looking improve on its second place finish in the B Pool two years ago. The team was bolstered this year by professional American baseball players, who made Aliyah to play on the team towards the bid for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Six of them played for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, where Israel finished in sixth place.
After dominating the first round of the B Pool in Bulgaria in early July with a sweep of six games, Team Israel faced Lithuania in the playoff for a place in the A Pool. Israel continued to dominate, with an opening 12-2 victory in Utena, Lithuania. Standing out for Team Israel was WBC alumnus Joey Wagman, who pitched 6 innings of 1 earned run with 10 strike outs; Eric Brodkowitz, who didn't allow a hit over the last 3 innings; and Rob Paller who went 3 for 5 with 4 RBIs and 2 home runs. Additng to Paller's home runs, Israel hit 6 home runs were Mitch Glasser, Blake Gaillen, Simon Rosenbaum and Jeremy Wolf with one each.
In Game 2 the following day, Gabe Cramer shut the Lithuanians down, allowing only one hit to give Israel a 15-0 victory after five innings. Israel had 11 hits for 15 runs, and three home runs from Rosenbaum, Wolf and Jake Rosenberg. Israel shut down Lithuania over two games, allowing only 1 earned run in 14 innings of play, while pushing 27 runs across. Simon Rosenbaum led all hitters with a .571 average and 2 home runs. Wolf and Paller also slugged 2 home runs each and hit .500 over the two games. Dominant pitching by the trio of Cramer, Brodkowitz and Wagman led Israel to their two wins in the playoffs.
Team Israel will now play in the A Pool tournament of the European Championships on September 7-15 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.
“The A Pool is not our goal,” said Peter Kurz, President of the IAB and GM of Team Israel. “Our goal is to reach the Olympic Qualifiers after the A Pool. With our pitching, in a short A Pool series, anything can happen.” 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.”
Team Israel now faces the task of raising the funds to pay for their September competitions and is actively fundraising for this cause. Please make all donations to the Team Israel Olympic Games crowd sourcing site: https://www.jewcer.org/project/israelbaseballolympics/