When Team Israel took the field against Korea, many thought there was little to no chance that the ragtag group of minor leaguers would make it out of the first round robin. They were the only team in the tournament not in the top 20 in the international baseball rankings. There was nobody donning the Star of David who was also on a major league 40-man roster. However, the underdogs forced extra innings with a 1-1 tie going into the 10th. In the top of the tenth with runners on first and third, Scott Burcham hit an infield ground ball up the middle which was scooped up by the second baseman. However, he had nowhere to go with the ball and was forced to let the run score. Half an inning later, Josh Zeid finished the job by forcing a line-out and two strikeouts.
Less than 24 hours later, Israel took the field against the Chinese Taipei. Unlike their low scoring affair with Korea, they jumped out to an early lead in the first inning, scoring 4 runs. Two innings later, Ryan Lavarnway hit a shot into the center field stands, which scored both him and Zach Borenstein. In the bottom of the 6th, Taipei made it a game. They cut Israel’s lead in half with a double and a sacrifice fly. Israel responded with 5 runs in the top of the 7th, facing three different pitchers in the inning. 3 of those runs came on a blunder of miscommunication. Scott Burchum laid down a bases-loaded bunt down the first base line, causing the catcher, pitcher and first baseman to run in to get it. The pitcher got to the ball first and without looking, fired to first base. Since the first baseman was charging the bunt, nobody was home to receive the throw at first. Israel scored three runs and Burchum reached third. In the bottom of the 9th, Taipei was down 15-3. They ended up rallying for 4 runs, making the final score 15-7 in favor of Israel.
The main lesson to be learned from the first day of play at the World Baseball Classic is that Israel is no team to take lightly.
photo courtesy of NJ.com