Team Israel’s unlikely adventure in the World Baseball Classic came to an end today in Tokyo. Facing two-time WBC champions Japan, who were undefeated and ranked 1st coming into the tournament, Israel fell 8-3. The loss officially eliminated them from the competition’s second round, where they went 1-2, beating Cuba but losing to the Netherlands and finally Japan.
The game was tight until the 6th inning. Team Israel starter Josh Zeid, who had carried the team on his back in the qualifiers and closed out multiple wins in the Classic, threw four scoreless innings, shutting down an elite Japanese line-up. He was followed by Dylan Axelrod, who sent Japan down in order in the 5th, but unraveled in the 6th. When that inning ended, Japan was leading 5-0, and would never look back. Israel did not go quietly into the night, though, rallying in the 9th for three runs, to make the final score 8-3.
The loss marked the end of a remarkable run for Team Israel, who entered the tournament ranked 41st, but proceeded to beat South Korea (3), Chinese Taipei (4), the Netherlands (9), and Cuba (5), before losing their final two contests. They did it without a single active Major Leaguer on their roster. Instead, the team’s motley crew of minor league prospects, retired ballplayers, and journeymen bested teams featuring some of MLB’s top talent. Along the way, the group earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for the development of baseball in Israel, inspired Jews around the world, and carved their name into the annals of great Jewish sports achievements.
Sorry to see the Jew Crew get eliminated from the WBC. But savor this accomplishment: Team Israel yarmulkes sold out at MLB dot com.
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) March 15, 2017
“It’s a large group of really talented ballplayers who all have been kicked around a lot in their career,” Team Israel player Cody Decker noted last week. “We don’t have a single star on this team. It’s all the role players who made the stars look good. Everyone on this team has been passed over – no pun intended on that one.”
After today, no one will pass over them anymore.
Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.