Israel captures silver in Euro U16 championships
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the first time, Israel not only cracked the top-4 in the baseball tournament, but reached the championship game.
For the fourth consecutive year, Israel participated in the PONY European Baseball Championships in Prague for the 16-and-under age bracket, led by coaches Amit Kurz and Orr Gottlieb from Israel, Richard Kania from Prague and manager Yaron Erel.For the first time, Israel not only cracked the top-4 in the tournament, but reached the championship game against the German national academy.The difference from previous showings was timely hitting throughout the lineup, particularly by Adam Miller (Ra’anana) who was among the tournament batting leaders in several categories.The tournament began last Thursday with an easy 26-0 victory for the blue-and-white over Brno. Israeli pitchers Yotam Ben Amram (Tel Aviv) and Mordy Roth (Yuvalim) combined on a perfect game.Avi Watson (Beit Shemesh) had five RBIs, including a triple.Friday featured a double-header that started well.Israel faced the Slovenian national team and raced to an 8-0 lead behind Ben Amram’s solid start. Looking to save his arm for later games, Ben Amram was relieved in the sixth inning by Miller, who yielded four consecutive hits.Tal Erel (Tel Aviv), who had three RBIs in the game, closed out the late Slovenian rally. Shortstop Noam Calissar (Tel Aviv) scored twice from the leadoff spot, reaching base on a double and a single.The night-cap was tougher, as Israel faced the Czech national academy.Starter Binyamin Mor (Beit Shemesh) threw four innings, yielding five runs (three earned) in the second inning, with Israel leading 2-1 following a controversial balk call that the umpiring crew later admitted was mistaken. The final score of 6-2 did not reflect the closeness of the contest.With a 2-1 record in pool play, Israel advanced to the playoff round.The first playoff game was played on Saturday night, after Shabbat ended, under rainy skies and 6-degree weather. The opponent was a leading Prague team, Kotlarka, which finished in first place in its pool.Nevertheless, Israel dominated, winning 12-1 behind Erel’s dominant start and excellent hitting throughout the lineup.The victory put Israel in the semifinals for the first time.The semi was played early Sunday morning versus the Lithuanian national team. Israel raced to a 5-1 lead and looked poised to ride into the championship game until the defense committed several costly errors that enabled Lithuania to take a 9-5 lead into the last inning.With typical Israeli determination, though, the local boys fought back, tying the game on a bases-load single by Yoav Halper (Gezer ) and winning on Roth’s RBI single.Mor notched the win in relief.Facing a very tough German national academy in the championship, Israel ran out of gas, and pitchers. More started but the Germans bashed their way to a 15-1 win.Nevertheless, the blue-and-white boys returned home extremely proud of their achievement, ready to take on the Americans and Canadians in this summer’s Maccabiah Games.