Israel beats Cuba 4-1 at World Baseball Classic

The Israeli team are appearing in the competition, organised by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), for the first time after coming through qualifying and surprisingly won all three of matches in the opening round.

The first reaction in the US, at least, was to hail the band of unheralded bearded guys, all but one from the USA with varying degrees of religious conviction, playing under the Israeli flag in the name of promoting baseball in the Jewish state.

And it has helped mend ties between Israel and American Jews that have been flagging recently due to backtracking of a government-funded egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall and a new law that forbids entry to foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the settlements.

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"We are a great hitting team and we believe in ourselves and that's what you saw tonight - 15 hits", Balentien said.

Team Netherlands, which includes major league stars Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox shortstop; Didi Gregorious, the Yankees shortstop; Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles second baseman; and Jurickson Profar, the Rangers infielder, presented a formidable challenge to Israel, which doesn't have a current major leaguer on its roster.

According to WBC rules, the mercy rule is enforced once a team holds a lead of 10 or more runs after seven innings. He pitched only one inning in the 4-2 loss to Israel in the last game of pool play.

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Two teams in each of the four pools advance to the next round of the tournament. During the holiday of Purim last weekend (March 11 and 12), the players prayed together in the dugout. Luckily for team Israel, Josh Zeid got Cuba's Willian Saavedra to ground out to third, ending the game. But there is growing interest in the sport, thanks in part to the team's success.

Israel's national team is rocking the World Baseball Classic. But that didn't dampen their enthusiasm.

"I love the Mensch on the Bench and the fact that they're proud of being Jewish, he added."I am, too".

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