Team Israel caused a major upset on the second day of the Olympic Games Qualifiers at the Nino Cavalli Stadium in Parma, Italy on September 19, by beating Netherlands 8-1. The Dutch had only days earlier won the European Championships, where Israel took fourth place, and lost to them in the round robin phase of the tournament in Germany. After a decisive 8-1 win against the favorites, Israel went 2-0 in the qualifiers.
The Dutch’s only run came in the top of the second inning as a result of two doubles, against Israeli pitcher Jon Moscot. He pitched four innings and only gave up the one run. He was relieved by Jeremy Bleich who got the win, pitching two innings and allowing no hits.
Israel’s bats came alive early in the game, when DH Danny Valencia walked, and with two outs and two strikes against him, catcher Nick Rickles homered to deep left field for 2 RBIs.
Israel continued its domination with a memorable second inning. With OF Rob Paller and first baseman Benjamin Wanger both drawing walks, OF Simon Rosenbaum’s sacrifice bunt moved them up and a single from third baseman Zach Penprase loaded the bases. Second baseman Mitch Glasser capitalized with a 3 RBI double. OF Blake Gailen walked, and Valencia doubled to left center. Glasser scored and Gailen was out at home. Israel added four runs in that decisive inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Gailen reached on an error, and Valencia singled to center field, Gailen to second. Rickles added another single, and loaded the bases. A single to center field from Paller added one more run to Israel’s score line to put the team ahead 7-1. Paller started the bottom of the eighth inning with a double to right center. Wanger flied out to center, and Paller advanced. A sac-fly to right field from Penprase brought Paller home for Israel’s last run of the night.
The win against Netherlands casts a spotlight on Israel as the team to beat. “Just like we were considered underdogs in the World Baseball Classic two years ago,” notes Peter Kurz, General Manager and Israel Association of Baseball President, “we came into this tournament after having had to qualify for the European Championships, and placing fourth there, so expectations weren’t high. After two impressive wins, we now have to continue the momentum in the next three games against another three tough competitors – Italy, Czech Republic and South Africa. Every team that made it to the qualifiers is a challenge, but I am confident that we have to tenacity and talent to come through and make it all the way to Tokyo.”