In front of a largely pro-Israel crowd of 1,581 in Jupiter Florida, Israel won its first game ever in the World Baseball Classic, defeating South Africa 7-3.
On paper this game looked like a mismatch. All but one of Israel's players hails from the United States and all but one of South Africa's team is native to that land. But the game was extremely close for six innings because of the pitching of Dylan Unsworth, who played for the Mariners Northwest League team in Everett this past season. Unsworth allowed a first inning home run to Padres first baseman Nate Freiman, who was an all-star this past season in the Texas League. After that, Unsworth then shut Israel down for the rest of his six-inning start. He allowed four more hits, all singles, and he didn't walk anyone while striking out six.
As good as Unsworth was on the mound, he exited trailing 1-0 after six innings because South Africa could not do much of anything offensively. Indians Eric Berger, who pitched for Triple-A Erie, gave up only two hits over three innings and Diamondbacks pitcher Brett Lorin, from Double-A Mobile, then pitched a perfect fourth and fifth innings.
South Africa threatened to take the lead in the sixth inning when Lorin gave up a lead-off single and then followed that up with a walk. After a ground out to first base put runners on second and third with one out, Lorin exited after 2.1 innings for Josh Zeid of Double-A Corpus Christi (Astros). Zeid struck out Charles Cutler and got Brett Willemburg to pop out to end the threat.
When Unsworth exited after six innings, Israel pounded the South African bullpen. They scored one run in the seventh on a wild pitch and put up three runs in the eighth off of Kieran Lovegrove, who was a third-round pick of the Indians this past summer.
Nate Frieman would hit his second home run of the game in the top of the ninth, a towering solo blast to center field, which made it 6-0. Next, former Cub Adam Greenberg, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, walked and scored on a Shawn Green single to make it 7-0.
South Africa rallied in the bottom of the ninth off of Israeli reliever Shlomo Lipetz, who was the one player born in Israel on the team. Lipetz walked three of the four batters he faced, retiring only one batter with a fly out. Lipetz then exited for Mets Double-A reliever Jeff Kaplan, who allowed three inherited runners to score with a walk, an error and a ground out. But with two on and two out and the tying run on deck, Kaplan got the best player on the South African team, Gift Ngoepe (Pirates High-A Bradenton) to pop out.
Notes: On the internet broadcast of the game, it was confirmed that the Cubs denied permission for Tayler Scott to pitch for South Africa.
All of the qualifying games are being streamed on the internet for free, and I found the the quality to be quite good. If you like hearing interesting stories about baseball players, I promise you they had a lot of them here and they're ones you've never heard before. For example, Ngoepe grew up in a baseball clubhouse because his mother worked as a clubhouse attendant in exchange for a place to live; that is, a room in the clubhouse.
You can catch Canada taking on Great Britain at noon Chicago time today, live from Regensberg. At six tonight, France will take on Spain from Jupiter.