Israel ended its Cinderella run at the World Baseball Classic, after losing to Japan’s national team at home in Tokyo.
More than 40,000 fans packed the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday to cheer the home team to an 8-3 victory over Israel. The game remained scoreless until the sixth inning when Japan scored five runs.
Israel, who have been backed by their lifesize ‘Mensch on the Bench’ mascot, won its first game in the second round of the quadrennial tournament against Cuba by a score of 4-1, and then dropped a rematch with the Netherlands, 12-2.
Japan, with a tournament record of 6-0, and the Netherlands will advance from Pool E to the finals in Los Angeles, and meet the top two teams from the Pool F games currently being played in San Diego.
Israel was the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the showcase tournament, coming in at 41st in the world. But last week in the first round, the Israelis squeaked past third-ranked South Korea, 2-1, in extra innings, outscored fourth-ranked Taiwan, 15-7, and defeated ninth-ranked the Netherlands, 4-2, to finish first in Pool A with a 3-0 record.
This is the first year that Israel has qualified for the tournament. In 2012, its inaugural WBC squad narrowly missed advancing past the qualifiers.
Most of the players are American Jews, among them several former major leaguers. WBC rules state that players who are eligible for citizenship of a country may play on its team. Jews and their grandchildren, and the grandchildren’s spouses, have the right to become Israeli citizens.
The team appeared on the field at each game for the national anthem of Israel, Hatikvah, with matching blue kippot.