Behind another two home runs from Padres first baseman Nate Freiman, Israel defeated Spain 4-2 to advance to the finals of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Jupiter, Florida. Meanwhile, Germany won its first ever WBC game by crushing the Czech Republic, 16-1 in a game that ended after six innings because of the mercy rule.
Coming into the tournament, Israel and Spain were considered the best two teams in the Jupiter Qualifier, and today they delivered the best game of the tournament. Both starting pitchers were on their game and kept the game scoreless for five innings. But Frieman (Double-A San Antonio) broke the scoreless tie with a two-run home run off of Spain's Richard Salazar (Independent Sioux City) in the sixth.
But Spain struck back in the bottom of the inning when DH Rafael Alvarez hit a two-out single to center and second baseman Paco Figueroa (Independent Southern Maryland) scored all the way from first when Israel center fielder Ben Guez (Tigers Triple-A Toledo) let the ball get past him for an error.
The score remained that way until the eighth inning when Freiman came to bat again and hit his second two-run home run of the game to make it 4-1.
Spain got a run in the bottom of the ninth when catcher Adrian Nieto (Washington Low-A Hagerstown) led off the inning with a double and pinch-runner Juan Salazar scored after two ground outs off of Israel closer Josh Zeid (Astros Double-A Corpus Christi). But Zeid got the next batter with a third ground out to end the game.
Nate Freiman has been the story of the World Baseball Classic so far with four home runs in two games. Today he was 2 for 4 with all four runs batted in.
I wonder if Mike Epstein would loan his nickname to Freiman for the rest of the tournament.
Right fielder Joc Pederson (Dodgers High-A Rancho Cucamonga) was 2 for 4 and scored on one of Freiman's home runs.
Justin Schumer (Giants High-A San Jose) got the win for Israel with 5.2 innings and allowing only one unearned run. He gave up six hits, walked one and struck out on. Zeid got his first save.
Salazar got the loss for Spain. He pitched six innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on only four hits. He walked one and struck out three.
Rafael Alvarez was the best bat for Spain, going 3 for 4.
With the win, Israel has guaranteed themselves a spot in the qualifier finals. Spain will take on the winner of the South Africa/France game. That game was delayed several times by rain and was suspended at one in the morning with the score tied 2-2 heading to the tenth inning.
Germany had little trouble with the Czech Republic the World Baseball Classic debut for both teams. Germany got off to a fast start and scored three times in the first inning off of Czech starter Michael Sobotka.
Sobotka was able to keep Germany from scoring in the next three innings, and the Czech Republic threatened to make a game out of it in the top of the fifth ining when DH Jacob Sladek singled, stole second base, went to third on a Martin Drong single and scored on a bad pick-off throw to make it 3-1. But Germany blew the game wide open with eight runs in the bottom of the fifth and five more in the sixth inning to end the game by the mercy rule.
Mike Bolsenbroek got the win for Germany. He pitched 5.1 innings and allowed one unearned run on five hits. He walked two and struck out six.
Third baseman Matt Weaver (Braves High-A Lynchburg) hit a grand slam in that eight-run fifth inning. Weaver was 1 for 4. Left fielder Eric Suttle (Independent Gary) went 2 for 4 with a double and two runs scored.
Germany will take on Canada today at noon Chicago time. Whichever team wins the France/South Africa game will take on Spain tonight at 6 pm Chicago time. As always, all games have free streaming video at worldbaseballclassic.com.