Israel advances to second round of World Baseball Classic

Netherlands’ 6-5 defeat of Taiwan propels Jewish state’s squad into next stage; team set to face Dutch on Thursday

Israel pitcher Dean Kremer, right, celebrates his team's victory with catcher Nick Rickles against Taiwan after the first round game of the World Baseball Classic at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP/Ahn Young-joon)
Israel pitcher Dean Kremer, right, celebrates his team's victory with catcher Nick Rickles against Taiwan after the first round game of the World Baseball Classic at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP/Ahn Young-joon)

Israel’s national baseball team clinched a spot in the second round of the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday, after The Netherlands defeated Taiwan 6-5.

Both Israel and The Netherlands now hold 2-0 records in the group stage, while South Korea and Taiwan each have 0-2 records.

Two of the four teams from each group 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.

Israel and The Netherlands will face off on Thursday, although with both teams having secured spots in the next round, the outcome of the game bears little importance.

Israel's Zach Borenstein is forced out at home as South Korea's catcher Yang Eui-ji tries to throw to first during the eighth inning of the first round game of the World Baseball Classic at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March 6, 2017. (AP /Lee Jin-man)
Israel’s Zach Borenstein is forced out at home as South Korea’s catcher Yang Eui-ji tries to throw to first during the eighth inning of the first round game of the World Baseball Classic at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March 6, 2017. (AP /Lee Jin-man)

The Netherlands, which was considered a weaker team than both South Korea and Taiwan going into the tournament, still ranks way ahead of Israel, which is seen as a heavy underdog.

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.

'Mensch on a Bench' with Team Israel player Cody Decker, March 5, 2017. (Screenshot/MLB.com)
‘Mensch on a Bench’ with Team Israel player Cody Decker, March 5, 2017. (Screenshot/MLB.com)

After beating the hometown favorite South Korea in a thrilling 2-1 extra innings game on Monday, the Israeli squad defeated Taiwan in a 15-7 drubbing on Tuesday.

One of the stars of the tournament for the Israeli squad has been the Mensch on a Bench, a human-sized doll with a rabbi’s hat and Hannukah candle that has become the team’s mascot.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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