Israel emerged as the dominant team in the Olympic Games qualifiers in Italy, when it dominated the hosts in an 8-2 game, to go 3-0, ahead of the rest of the other five teams.

Until the seventh inning, it was anyone’s game. For the first three innings it was a pitchers’ duel between Israel’s Gabe Cramer and Italy’s Luis Lugo, with neither side managing to score. In the top of the fourth inning, DH Danny Valencia walked, and catcher Nick Rickles homered to deep left field, putting two runs on the board. In the bottom of the fifth, with Zack Weiss on the mound for Israel, the Italians got two walks, and a double from Chris Colabello brought in Sebastiano Poma and Andrew Maggi to tie the game.

The score remined tied until the top of the eighth inning, when Israel broke out and scored six runs. First baseman Benjamin Wanger was hit by a pitch, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Simon Rosenbaum. Third baseman Zach Penprase walked, and Wanger reached third on a wild pitch. Mitch Glasser bunted and reached on an error and Wanger scored. With two outs, Valencia reached on an error, loading the bases. Rickles singled to the left side and Glasser and Wanger scored. OF Rob Paller was hit by a pitch and the bases were again loaded with Valencia on third and Rickles on second. Short stop Ty Kelly singled to right field and Valencia scored. Wanger singled to the left for 2 RBIs, as Rickles and Paller scored. The inning ended with Israel quickly in a comfortable lead.Rickles Valencia

Jonathan DeMarte on the mound for Israel retired the Italians in order in the bottom of the eight, and repeated the feat in the bottom of the ninth for the win.

Israel faces Czech Republic next and South Africa on Sunday. A fourth win would virtually ensure Israel a historic place in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Only the top team moves into the Olympics line up automatically. The second place team will play in a lucky losers’ tournament in March 2020.

“We’ve done great things over the past three days, and the win against the strong Italian team was the icing on the cake so far,” says Team Israel General Manager and Israel Association of Baseball President Peter Kurz. “We beat the three teams that beat us in last week’s European Championships. But we still have work to do and nothing is certain in baseball. So, we’re still taking it one game at a time and focusing our energies on keeping ahead of our competitors.”

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