18/09/2019 - 22/09/2019

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Tokyo 2020 Olympic Baseball Europe Africa Qualifier - Official Payoff

Israel beats Italy, makes huge step towards Tokyo

Israel beats Italy, makes huge step towards Tokyo

It was a close game for seven innings, then Israel scored six in the top of the eighth to break the score open. Now the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are just a couple of steps away

Israel beat Italy, 8-2, to remain undefeated in the Baseball Europe Africa Qualifier and moved one huge step towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The game was tied at two after seven innings. Israel took the lead on a two-run home run by catcher Nick Rickles in the top of the fourth and Italy tied it on a two-run double by Chris Colabello in the bottom of the fifth.

Israel scored six runs in the top of the eighth to break the score open.
Italy’s starter Luis Lugo left after hitting first baseman Ben Wanger. It was only the fifth batter that reached against him. Italy gave the ball to Pat Venditte, the only professional pitcher who can throw both as a left and a righthander. Wanger reached second on a sacrifice bunt by first baseman Simon Rosenbaum and touched third on a wild pitch. Venditte walked the next batter and Italy’s defence melted under pressure. The Azzurri committed an error on a safety squeeze attempt by Mitch Glasser and another on a slow chopper by Daniel Valencia. Israel made Italy pay with a base hit off the mound by Rickels that sent Venditte to the showers. Israel added two runs against Michael Johnson.

“I think our safety squeeze was really a big play,” said after the game Israel’s manager Eric Holtz “It really changed the course of a game that both teams had played in an unbelievable way.”

Italy has a lot to regret. The hosts got started against Gabe Cramer with a one-out single by second baseman Alessandro Vaglio, followed by a double by Chris Colabello. Italy stranded the two runners and could make nothing of a leadoff triple by right fielder John Andreoli in the bottom of the second.

Italy also lost Chris Colabello, its best hitter tonight. Reliever Jon De Marte hit him in the bottom of the seventh, after giving up a leadoff walk. Colabello had to leave the field and Beau Maggi replaced him as a pinch-runner. Peppe Mazzanti bunted the runners to third and second but Italy stranded two more runners in scoring position. The Azzurri then went back to defence for the fatal eighth inning.

“We are an experienced team. We lost something because Colabello is our leader, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse,” commented Italy’s manager Gilberto Gerali.
“It’s a hard one to take,” added Gerali “We had very good chances to score and we couldn’t.”
The error on Israel’s safety squeeze made a difference: “Errors are part of the game. My decision to leave Lugo in the top of the eighth is also questionable if you want to second guess it.”

Italy committed two key errors against Israel in the eighth

Italy’s defence melted in the eighth inning

Israel needs now two more wins against the Czech Republic and South Africa.
“Yesterday I said we were going to celebrate for 20 minutes. Tonight the time to celebrate is down to ten minutes,” said Eric Holtz on a final note. “After that, we will focus on the game against the Czech Republic, that is now the most important one for us.”