Team Israel has shocked the baseball world by advancing to the second round of the World Baseball Classic with two wins this week against much higher-ranked teams.
Israel, at 41st in the world rankings, is the only team in the tournament not ranked in the world top 20. Israel was considered the biggest underdog in the 16-nation field, being given odds of 200-1 before the tournament by Bovada sportsbook in Las Vegas.
But Israel won its main-draw WBC debut on March 6 with a 2-1 10-inning upset of Korea, the host team that is ranked third in the world. Santa Rosa’s Gabe Cramer got three key outs in relief in that victory.
Former Oakland Athletics Ike Davis and Nate Freiman were among four Israeli players with three hits apiece as Israel followed up that low-scoring win with a blowout against fourth-ranked Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), in a 15-7 victory on March 7 in Seoul.
A come-from-behind win by the Netherlands over Chinese Taipei on March 8 advanced both the Dutch and Israelis to Round 2. Israel can win the four-team, first-round Pool A if it beats the Netherlands in its next game (7 p.m. PST on Wednesday), but will move on to the second round even with a loss.
The Netherlands, which won its opener 5-0 against Korea and is ranked ninth in the world, is a powerful team that includes current major league stars Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox, Didi Gregorius of the New York Yankees, Jonathan Schoop of the Baltimore Orioles and Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Israel does not have a current major leaguer on its roster.
The second round is set for March 12-16 in Tokyo and the tournament concludes at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on March 20-22.