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Baseball: Israel loses European Championship to Netherlands, wins silver

CM 19/09/2021


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Team Israel’s Cinderella run at the European Baseball Championship ended one minute after midnight (Tel Aviv time) in the final game as the Netherlands defeated the Blue and White 9-4 in the gold medal game played in Torino, Italy. 
Starter Joey Wagman had already pitched superbly In his two previous tournament outings, going deep into both games to enable Israel to record its two tightest victories (2-1 over Russia and 3-2 over the Czech Republic).  He made a gutsy attempt to start his third game in a week, determined to overcome fatigue with pure grit. He retired all three batters he faced in the first inning but was obviously struggling.
Manager Nate Fish quickly opted to replace him with first baseman Benny Wanger who himself also had already pitched twice in extended relief appearances, earning the wins both times. Wanger was up to the task. After giving up a run in the second inning on a single, stolen base, and a run-scoring single, he held the Netherlands’ potent offense scoreless over the next four frames.

Ben Wanger (23) came in for starter Joey Wagman after only one inning and heroically shut down the powerful Dutch side. (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL/ COURTESY)Ben Wanger (23) came in for starter Joey Wagman after only one inning and heroically shut down the powerful Dutch side. (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL/ COURTESY)

By mowing down the powerful Dutch batters, Wanger allowed Israel to make a comeback.  Down 1-0 in the top of the fourth, Israel loaded the bases on three walks and pushed across two runs on Rob Paller’s sac fly and Jordan Petrushka’s two-out single.  
The Blue and White continued to cling to its slim 2-1 lead, with the scent of upset growing stronger with each passing inning. Assaf Lowenberg then blasted a two-run shot for his tournament-leading fourth dinger in six games,  putting Israel ahead 4-1 in the sixth.
However, the fairy tale ended in the bottom of the seventh when Wanger tired and allowed two consecutive Dutch players to reach on well-hit singles. Manager Fish went to his hard-throwing closer Bubby Rossman, hoping he could repeat the escape act he performed against the Russians in the tournament opener. Unfortunately, the Netherlands’ mighty line-up was up to Rossman’s heat and Roger Bernadina greeted Bubby with a three-run bomb deep over the right-field wall, tying the game at 4-4.

Assaf Lowengart (24) launched a two-run moonshot to put Israel ahead 4-1, giving Israel hopes of an upset. Lowengart led all tournament players with four home runs. (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL/ COURTESY)Assaf Lowengart (24) launched a two-run moonshot to put Israel ahead 4-1, giving Israel hopes of an upset. Lowengart led all tournament players with four home runs. (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL/ COURTESY)

Following an infield single, the Dutch pushed across the lead run. By then, even though Rossman got out of a bases-loaded jam with  Israel down only 5-4, Israel’s hopes of an upset had been shattered.  Forty-one-year-old veteran Shlomo Lipetz, who had pitched six strong innings just two nights earlier, was hit hard in the bottom of the eighth as the Dutch put the game beyond reach. The game’s final score was 9-4.  
Team Israel had faced an enormous challenge. It had just come off a grueling summer in which it had prepared for and participated in the Olympics. As a result, it played the current European Championship tournament with only 17 players on its roster as opposed to 24 that are allowed. Four players performed double duties appearing as pitchers and position players, and several key names from the Olympic roster were unable to join the squad.
The Netherlands came in as the winningest nation in European baseball with 23 gold medals, while appearing in the final game 32 times out of the 36 times the Championships have been held.
Israel on the other hand was appearing in only its second Championship tournament. General Manager Peter Kurz was proud of his team, saying “coming away with the silver medal is an incredible achievement. Doing it with mostly young players who have grown up in our program is a dream come true!”
Indeed, 10 out of the 17 players on the squad were born in Israel and are products of the Israel Baseball Academy, like home run leader Lowengart and catcher Tal Erel.
Despite the disappointment of losing a late-inning lead and suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Netherlands, Erel was quick to express his deep satisfaction over Israel’s first-ever silver: “We are players from four generations of Israelis who came together with our American brothers who joined us as role models and friends. We melded into one unit with a common soul, a single purpose and sense of family.”  

Source: Jerusalem Post

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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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