Israel’s national baseball team clobbered Taiwan 15-7 Tuesday, racing off to a 2-0 start in the country’s first-ever appearance in the World Baseball Classic.
Powered by strong hitting and capped by a three-run homer by Nate Freiman in the top of the ninth inning, the Israeli team continued its fairy-tale start to the international tourney, all but clinching a spot in the next round, after beating Korea in the opener 2-1 Monday.
Israel next faces The Netherlands, considered a weaker team than both South Korea and Taiwan, but still ranked way ahead of Israel, which is seen as a heavy underdog.
The top two teams from each group in the 16-team tournament will advance to the second round in Japan next week.
Israel’s hitters started off by battering Taiwan starting pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo for four runs off six hits in the first inning, quickly knocking him out the game. The teaming added two more runs in the third when Ryan Lavarnway tattooed a home-run, before Taiwan halved its lead with a three-run sixth inning.
Israel responded with five runs in the seventh inning and three more in the eight and ninth, putting away the game for good.
Taiwan added four runs in the bottom of the ninth to make it interesting, but it was not enough to reverse the blowout.
Two of four teams will advance from first-round pools in Seoul, Tokyo, Miami and Guadalajara, Mexico, into second-round play at Tokyo and San Diego that will determine the four semifinalists to play March 20-21 in Los Angeles.
Nearly all the members on Team Israel are American Jews. By WBC rules, a player may compete for a country if he is eligible for citizenship under its laws. Israel extends the right of automatic citizenship to Jews, their non-Jewish children, grandchildren and the non-Jewish spouses of their children and grandchildren.
Ranked only No. 38 in the world, the Israeli team has become the tournament’s unlikely darlings, surprising many by even making it this far.