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USA TODAY Sports’ Jorge Ortiz takes a look at how the major teams will fare in the second round of the World Baseball Classic. USA TODAY Sports
Team Israel’s surprise run into the second round of the World Baseball Classic ended Wednesday when Japan defeated the self-proclaimed Jew Crew 8-3 at Tokyo Dome.
The Israelis won their first four games of the tournament to advance to the second round, and were poised to score another upset of a baseball power Wednesday, locked in a scoreless tie with Japan through five innings. Josh Zeid pitched gallantly, giving up four hits over four scoreless innings before departing after throwing 67 pitches.
Japan, however, got to Israel’s bullpen for five runs in the sixth inning, including a home run from Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, and built the lead to 8-0 through eight innings before Israel scored three runs in the ninth.
Israel finished 1-2 and in third place in Pool E, and 4-2 overall in the tournament, a significant step forward for a team that had to qualify for the WBC and was ranked 41st at the start of the tourney. The ragtag collection of mostly American-born players received plaudits from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and made their early-morning games appointment viewing for many Jews in the USA.
Advancing out of group play means the Israelis won’t have to qualify for the 2021 WBC, however, and could inspire participation from other U.S.-born Jews in the major leagues.
Japan remained unbeaten in the WBC and remains the only country to advance to the semifinals in all four editions of the event. Japan won the WBC in 2006 and 2009, but lost in the 2013 semifinals to Puerto Rico.