(Reuters) - Israel qualified for their first World Baseball Classic with a 9-1 victory over Britain on Sunday to clinch the four-team qualifying tournament in Brooklyn.
Israel narrowly missed out on reaching the Classic four years ago with their inaugural team, losing to Spain in the 10th inning of the qualifying final.
Five Israel pitchers, including former Major Leaguer Jason Marquis, combined to limit Britain to four hits while the offense pushed the team to a 6-0 lead through seven innings.
“It was definitely our goal to win this little qualifier and get to the main event,” said Marquis, who started and pitched four perfect innings before he handed over to the bullpen.
”I didn’t want to overextend myself and put my team in a hole. Could I have squeaked out a few more pitches? From my competitive side, sure. But we had some fresh arms in the bullpen very capable of getting the job done.
“That was a big part of our success. We have a lot of depth in pitching. And they did a great job.”
Blake Gailen and Ryan Lavarnway each powered two-run homers in the fifth inning while Cody Decker added a blast in the seventh. Lavarnway also delivered an RBI single during his team’s three-run eighth inning.
Scott Burcham finished 3-for-4 for Israel.
Israel went undefeated through the tournament, having beaten the British side 5-2 last Thursday when they rallied for four runs in the seventh inning.
They beat Brazil 1-0 on Friday in a pitcher’s duel to move into the final.
The 16-team World Baseball Classic will be held in South Korea in March, 2017 and with players on the 25-man roster of all the Major League teams eligible to play, the Israeli side could look very different at the tournament though manager Jerry Weinstein was reluctant to change the side too much.
”I feel very loyal to the group of guys who got us there,“ said Weinstein. ”We have an obligation to a lot of the guys on this team that have made the commitment to be with us for this.
“For me as a manager, I‘m connected to these guys.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury