In the opening game of Team Israel’s European Championship at the Weyersberg Baseball Park in Solingen, Germany on September 7, Israel started strong, beating the perennial championships contender Czech Republic.

Czech Republic took an early one unearned run lead in the bottom of the first inning. Israel started slowly, with only one hit in each of the first two innings from Blake Gailen, who had singled up the middle in the top of the first, and Simon Rosenbaum who singled through the left side in the second. In the third inning, Gailen, in his second at bat, homered to right field, starting Israel’s bid to reach the Olympic Games qualifiers in style, and gave Israel a one run edge. Tied at 1-1, the game became a pitchers’ duel between starter Joey Wagman, who went 4 and two thirds innings with zero earned runs and Czech’s Radim Chroust.

In the top of the seventh inning, the momentum turned when, with one out, Mitch Glasser doubled to left center, just before Israel’s second out of the inning. A walk for Ty Kelly brought on a pitching change for the Czechs, who brought in Jan Novak. Up next, Gailen walked, Glasser advanced to third and Kelly to second, before catcher Nick Rickles come up to bat. A line-drive down the right field line brought home Glasser, Kelly and Gailen. A single up the middle by Danny Valencia drove Rickles in for the fourth run of the inning and a 5-1 lead for Israel.

Driving rain at the bottom of the inning forced a suspension, not before the wet conditions saw two Czech batters get on base, past Israel pitcher Zack Weiss. When the game restarted, Jonathan DeMarte came in to pitch for Weiss, and immediately struck out the next Czech batter, Martin Schneider, and Matej Hajma grounded out to short stop Zach Penprase. Advances to second and third by the two runners on base were to no avail after a fly out to center fielder Gailen ended the scoreless half inning for Czech Republic, leaving Israel with a comfortable lead.

Israel cemented its lead in the top of the eighth inning after Glasser singled through the left side. Jeremy Wolf, pinch hitting for Jake Rosenberg, reached on a fielding error by second base and Glasser advanced to second on the error. Kelly reached on a fielder's choice to shortstop, Wolf advanced to second on a throwing error by the Czech short stop and Glasser advanced to third on the same error. Gailen singled through the left side and Glasser scored.

After Czech Republic’s Hajma struck out, Petr Cech doubled down the right field line. DeMarte quickly followed that up by striking out the next two batters swinging.

Israel was unable to add to the score line in the top of the final inning. David (DJ) Sharabi came in to close. He allowed two hits, but then struck out the next two batters swinging, and Martin Cervenka lined out to Valencia at third base to end the game.  

Israel continues the week with games against Germany, Great Britain and Netherlands in Group A. Pool B is made up of Austria, Belgium, Italy, France, Spain and Croatia. The top five teams advance to the qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, to take place in Parma Italy from September 18-22.

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