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March 15, 2017 11:17 am

Team Israel’s Improbable World Baseball Classic Run Comes to End With 8-3 Loss to Japan in Tokyo

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

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Japan's Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh hits a solo home run off of Israel's Dylan Axelrod in the sixth inning of Wednesday's World Baseball Classic showdown at the Tokyo Dome. Photo: Screenshot.

Japan’s Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh hits a solo home run off of Israel’s Dylan Axelrod in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s World Baseball Classic showdown at the Tokyo Dome. Photo: Screenshot.

Team Israel’s improbable run through the World Baseball Classic came to an end on Wednesday with an 8-3 loss to heavily-favored Japan at the Tokyo Dome.

The game was scoreless until the sixth inning, when Japan put a five-spot on the board. It added three more runs in the eighth, putting the game out of reach of Israel — which plated three runs of its own in the ninth, but came up short in its quest to stay alive in the quadrennial tournament.

Israel stunned the baseball world last week by sweeping Korea, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands in the first round of WBC play at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. Its Cinderella story continued on Sunday, when it opened the second round in Tokyo with a 4-1 upset victory over Cuba, but it then fell to the Netherlands 12-2 on Monday, making Wednesday’s showdown with Japan a must-win proposition.

Japan and the Netherlands will now advance from Pool E to the championship round in Los Angeles on March 20-22, where they will be joined by two yet-to-be determined teams from Pool F (which includes the US, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela).

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Only two of the players on Israel’s roster are citizens of the Jewish state, where baseball is an emerging sport. World Baseball Classic rules allow players to compete for any countries in which they qualify for citizenship. This enables Israel to draw on the talent of non-native Jewish athletes who are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.

In an interview with The Algemeiner in January, Team Israel pitcher Josh Zeid — who started Wednesday’s game against Japan and threw four shutout innings — said, “We hope Israelis notice the effort we’re giving and that they’re proud of us.”

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