Israel defeated South Africa, 11-1 in eight innings, and qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Israel dominated the game from the second inning and broke the score open in a pretty symbolic way: first baseman Danny Valencia, the former MLB player that everyone on the Israeli roster indicates as the leader, hit a three-run home run off Derick Baylis to extend the run difference to ten.
“What we did was huge,” said Danny Valencia at the end of the game “It shouldn’t go unnoticed”.
“I just try to do my part,” added Valencia “I couldn’t hope to be around a better group of guys. We worked really hard. The team preparation required a lot of work and time. We came here to perform a task and we did it.”
Danny Valencia celebrated his 35th birthday during the tournament. His career as a player developed from 2010 to 2018 in the USA Major Leagues. He played 864 games for six different organizations and combined 96 home runs. We asked him what’s next in his baseball life: “Well, I will start getting ready for the Olympics….what’s next is the 2020 Olympic Games.”
Would you consider any opportunity in pro leagues? “We will see. If a good opportunity comes up, why not.”
Israel took the lead in the top of the second against Jared Elario and Garth Cahill, two of the six pitchers that South Africa sent to the mound. Israel thrived on three walks and two hit batters. Blake Gailen contributed with a two-RBI single.
Joe Wagman pitched seven solid innings and earned the win. He allowed to South Africa only six hits and the only run came in the bottom of the seventh on a base hit by designated hitter Brett Willemburg.
Zachary Weiss and Shlomo Lipetz took care of the last three outs.
Israel was awarded the official plaque that goes to the winners, the National Team that qualifies for the 2020 Olympics out of Europe and Africa, after the game.
The Federation President Peter Kurz, almost moved to tears, said he had “no words” to express how big this accomplishment is.
Danny Valencia commented on a final note about criticism of the local press on the fact the members of the team were all born and developed as players in the USA: “We are all Israeli citizens.”