Team Israel after its victory. (AP/Lee Jin-man) (AP/Lee Jin-man)

In an historic victory, Israel won the World Baseball Classic opener against South Korea.

Team Israel stunned the host South Korean team, opening the 2017 World Baseball Classic with a 2-1 victory in 10 innings Monday evening.

With a raucous crowd of over 15,000 cheering on the Koreans in the new Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, both teams fended off major offensive threats throughout the game, combining to leave 23 runners on base, including 3 times Israel left the bases loaded. Israel drew first blood in the top of the second, when a double by Zach Borenstein set up a bases-loaded walk by Tyler Krieger driving in Nate Freiman. Korea responded in the bottom half of the 5th with a one-out single to left by Geonchang Seo, driving in Kyoung-min Hur.

The game remained tied until the top of the 10th, when Ike Davis reached on a lead-off walk and went to third on a single by Ryan Lavarnway. With one out, Tyler Krieger attempted a squeeze bunt, but popped the ball lamely to the pitcher. With two outs, Scott Burcham grounded the ball sharply up the middle, and the Korean second baseman, Seo, failed to make the play, resulting in the winning run for Israel.

Team Israel, which has no current Major League Baseball players on its roster, showed a command of defense, turning two double-plays and showing sparkling coverage in the outfield. Neither team committed errors in the game.

The World Baseball Classic follows normal Major League Baseball rules (including the designated hitter), with a few exceptions. Innings from the 11th on begin with two runners on base. Games can be called if one team builds a 10 or 15-run lead early on. The most decisive difference is a complex system of pitch-count limits, which affect the availability of pitchers in subsequent games. Israel’s starter, former major-leaguer Jason Marquis, pitched three innings giving up two hits, but left the game under the 50-pitch limit, enabling him to start again Thursday when Israel faces the Netherlands led by New York Yankees’ star shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Perhaps because of the pitch-count limits, both teams worked deep into the count, with each team striking out 10 times, and 8 Korean pitchers combining to give up 9 walks.

Israel drew into the difficult Group A, and will play Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) tomorrow, followed by the Netherlands. The winner of this round will head to the second-round games in Tokyo next week.

The Israeli team is made up mostly of Jewish minor leaguers and former major leaguers. There are two Israelis on the team, including Dodger farmhand Dean Kremer, the first Israeli to be drafted by a major league team.

By: The Tower

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