There’s no doubt in who the 2017 World Baseball Classic’s cinderella story has been, being the Israel squad. Comprised of mainly American Jews, Team Israel swept their opening pool play held in South Korea. Before each game, the experts talked about how each upcoming game would be a “tough test” for the underwhelming Israel team. Well, if 2016/2017 were the years of sports shockers, then the Israel squad has found the perfect format to make a run into the deeper rounds of the tournament.
To make it into the tournament, Israel played in Brooklyn this past summer, beating the U.K. 5-2, then beating Brazil 1-0, and finishing their magical run by routing the U.K. again, 9-1.
Over the summertime and the weeks of practice, the group of mainly U.S. minor league talent, has grown close together, enjoying their time representing their historical homeland and all of the Jewish people. But the Israel roster does boast a nice dose of top MLB talent. Ryan Lavarnway, a catcher who played significant time for the Red Sox, Orioles, and Braves and Ike Davis, a former starlet who played for the Mets in a significant role. The roster also boasts some exceptional MLB pitching talent, highlighted by veteran Jason Marquis. The tournament has also served as a quasi-showcase, allowing for these relatively unknown prospects to be viewed by the whole world. Players like Ty Kelley and Tyler Kreiger have had outstanding performances in the four games played thus far, and have definitely caught the eyes of many MLB clubs.
4 Wins–The Underdog Becomes Mighty
To start, Team Israel beat Korea 2-1 in extra innings, causing some heads to turn. But the team really stepped into the spotlight after crushing Chinese Taipei, 15-7. The Israel team was thought to be a strong defensive minded team, with many thinking the team would struggle on offense, but this game settled the concerns. They then finished off perfect in Pool A, beating the Netherlands 4-2. This earned them a spot in the second round, which kicked off on March 11th, with Israel continuing their improbable run, beating Cuba, 4-1. Their next opponent will be a rematch with the Netherlands and then, a face off against their toughest opponent yet, being the also perfect thus far, Japan. Israel can continue to create magic on the field with their hard work and tough mentality. The hope is that their great record and performances will grow the popularity of the sport in Israel, which has a very brief history. The overall goal is that in the future, the team will offer a majority of homegrown Israeli players. If Israel stays hot, they can help spread their success all over the world.
The Rest of the Tournament: Team USA
Team USA looks to make a deep run into the tournament, ultimately hoping to take home the 1st place spot. Although some superstars rejected the offer to play, such as Nationals Outfielder Bryce Harper, the team still has a star-studded lineup, featuring Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, and Andrew Miller, among many others. The U.S. started the tournament beating Colombia 3-2 on a walk off hit by Orioles Outfielder Adam Jones, but faced a hard test against the Dominican Republic, losing a tough game 7-5. Today, the team faces geographic rival Canada, in which the U.S. hopes to bounce back from the disappointing loss to the D.R.