Undefeated Team Israel was already moving on to the second round of the World Baseball Classic — and then they defeated the Netherlands 4-2 Wednesday, completing a perfect first round by winning all three games against much higher-ranked teams.
Former Oakland Athletic Nate Freiman had a run-scoring double for his fifth RBI of the tournament as Israel scored three runs in the first inning and used nine pitchers to hold off the Dutch, with Josh Zeid getting the final five outs for the save.
— WBC Baseball (@WBCBaseball) March 9, 2017
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.
Freiman and Ike Davis, also a former Oakland Athletic, were among four Israeli players with three hits apiece as Israel followed up that nailbiter with a blowout victory against fourth-ranked Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), a 15-7 win on March 7 in Seoul.
The Netherlands, which is ranked ninth in the world and also advanced to the second round despite the loss to Israel, 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, Andrelton Simmons of the Los Angeles Angels and Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Israel does not have a current major leaguer on its roster.
The World Baseball Classic is a quadrennial tournament. 16 countries are represented this year.
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.