A Diary of a Tournament – Israel National U16 Team at the PONY Tournament in Prague
Thursday – the first game was against Russia: A scary name in Israel baseball history.
Yotam Ben Amram pitched the first inning – had 2 strike outs and 1 ground out.
Noam Kalisar started with a pop up, Assaf Lowengart walked and later scored; Yoav Halper, with his first double of the tournament, brought Assaf in; Yotam, with another double, brought Halper in; Adam Miller singled and brought Yotam in. Ethan popped up to first but Yoav Meoded doubled with an RBI. Hadar Sugarman was HBP for single; Michael Goldberg hit to LF; a double for Noam to LF; a single for Assaf to RF; a triple for Halper to CF; another double for Yotam; a single for Adam and Ethan before Meoded grounded out to 2B. This gave us a promising lead of 11:0 at the end of first inning.
Assaf replaced Yotam as a pitcher and gave the Russians their only hit, with a single, then one walk and the rest strike outs, that was everything the Russians had against us.
We continued hitting very hard and benefitted from the errors of the Russian players, who were failing to catch our balls that were hit hard to the outfield.
In this game ALL our players played. Ely hit for Hadar, Jacob hit for Michael, Omri ran for Yotam and David Ibn Ezra hit as well.
The final score: 27:0 Israel after too many Russian errors. But for the first time team Israel was hitting almost every ball to the outfield.
Friday second game - Belarus, a team we’d already beaten in the past.
Yotam started pitching with 2 strike outs and 1 ground out to short stop (Noam).
Noam started the inning with a single to LF; Assaf grounded out to 1B but brought Noam in 1:0 Israel. Halper singled to LF but was later out at 2B. Yotam struck out but made it to first on an error. Adam struck out to end the inning.
Second inning - Yotam pitched another inning with a fly out to LF, walk, strike out, walk and finished the inning with a ground out to 2B.
Our half inning was also short - Hadar flied out; Michael singled to LF; Noam struck out; and Assaf popped up to the short stop to end the inning.
Third inning - Adam pitched a strike out, fly out to LF and a ground out to short stop.
Noam hit a triple to CF; Assaf singled to CF and drove Noam in; Halper walked; Yotam singled to LF and drove two runners in; Adam walked; Ethan made it to first base on an error; Meoded hit and got to base on a fielder’s choice; Hadar bunted successfully for an infield single; Michaels struck out to end the inning 8:0 Israel.
In the last inning we scored two more runs by Noam and Assaf and game was over after 4 innings by mercy rule.
Friday third game - Czech Academy U15
We knew before the game by winning we would finish first place in our bracket, meaning we’d have to play two games on Shabbat which we did not want, and to probably play the Czech Academy U16 in the quarter finals, which we didn’t want either. On the other hand, a coach never sends his team to lose a game on purpose and always wants to win. So we played the game...
Assaf started pitching with a walk (got out at 2B later); a fly out to RF; another walk and a line drive out to 3B.
We started the inning strong with two runs scored by Noam and Assaf after a double to LF and a single to CF from Assaf that drove Noam in.
Halper maintained his hot bat with another double; Yotam popped up; Adam walked; Ethan grounded out to the pitcher and Meoded lined out to 2B. First inning - 2:0 Israel
The trouble started in the second inning with three walks, a pop up to short stop, a strike out and another strike out to end the inning with no runs. We didn’t do much better at bat with Hadar’s fly out, Michael’s single, Noam’s strike out and Assaf's pop up. Score still 2:0 Israel
Third inning and the Czechs started with a single, ground out to short stop, walk, single with RBI to CF, another single to 3B walk, error by the short stop got the runner on base and then we were punished with a triple to CF 3 RBI - Czechs 5:2. The inning wasn’t over yet with a single (on an error), walk, walk single with another RBI and a pop up, ending the inning at 8:2.
We started with a triple to CF by Halper; a walk for Yotam; a double from Adam that scored 2 runs (later he was out at home plate). Ethan singled; Meoded was hit by a pitch; Hadar popped up to 1B; Michael got on base on fielder’s choice and Noam grounded out to end the inning. 8:4 Czech.
Fourth inning. The Czechs continue to punish us on walks (5 more), and scored 2 more runs. Michael relieved Assaf with a strike out to end the inning.
Fourth inning - Assaf struck out; Halper flied out to CF; and Yotam struck out to end the game10:4. This was the only game in the tournament we could afford to lose.
We had Shabbat dinner on Friday night for entire team and coaches. It’s always good to take some time off and just to be together and receive Shabbat as one unified group – religious, non-religious, city boys, Kibbutz boys, Israeli-born players, new immigrants - kids from such a different backgrounds brought together by baseball and the best of friends!
Saturday - fourth game - Lithuania
Our religious boys didn’t want to miss the opportunity to support the team, even though they weren’t playing so walked with Orr Gottlieb, our coach, for 1.5 hours to be on the bench and cheer for their friends.
This was the most important game of the tournament so far for us, against a team that last year, after a 5:0 lead, exploded on us and took the lead 9:5 until bottom of last inning with two outs, when we managed to make a last effort and win 10:9 to advance to the championship game against all odds. This year they were waiting for their revenge. They will have to wait another year…
Our ace Yotam started the game with a fly out to center field, a walk and then a ground out double play to 2B.
Noam walked; Assaf moved Noam to 2B with a sac bunt; Halper singled to CF on an error (Noam scored); Yotam flied out to LF and with 2 outs; Ethan walked and Meoded, with bases loaded, hit an outside the park home run and the first grand slam for an Israeli team in many, many years. Hadar finished the inning with a fly out, 5:0 Israel.
Second inning - walk (later out at home plate); hit by pitch; and another walk (got out at 2B on a fielder’s choice); another fielder’s choice and a strike out to end the inning. Lithuania scored 1 run.
David Ibn Ezra started the inning with a single on an error by the short stop (and later was called out at 3B on a bad call after the player dropped the ball). Noam struck out; Assaf singled to LF; Halper walked; and Yotam with a double to CF, drove Assaf in. Adam ended the inning with a fly out to CF. Israel 6:1.
Third inning - Lithuania started with fly out to CF; a walk, single on an error of the short stop; another walk; strike out and pop up to the short stop to end the inning.
We started with Ethan flying out to RF; Meoded popped up to 2B; and Hadar lined out to 3B.
Lithuania scored one more run only for the rest of the game, with Yotam pitching a complete 5 innings game in 1:39 minutes. As per tournament rules, no new inning will start after 100 minutes (the first pitch thrown starts the inning) and we were at 99 minutes. The umpires called the game, but Lithuanian team wanted to play another inning. Amit explained to the umpires they had already called the game and that time was up as the Lithuanian team was not in the field, 8 warm up pitches were not thrown and was no chance to do all this in one minute. So the umpires called the game again in spite of the Lithuanian coach’s protests, and the Lithuanian players did not come out to shake hands with our players. The English team players and supported who were watching, started calling us cowards yelling and telling the umpires to continue one more inning, as they wanted us to burn more pitchers and tire our players out.
Game was over - 6:2 Israel. We made it to the semifinal but lost Yotam, who pitched over 100 pitches.
Sunday - semifinals against the English team London Mets, which had beaten us 10:5 two years ago. Our players weren’t going to allow this to happen again and put the pressure on the Mets from the first inning.
Noam tripled and scored on an error on a throw into the dugout. Assaf singled; Halper singled; Yotam walked; Adam grounded out with an RBI; Ethan popped up; Meoded singled and drove in a run in; Hadar walked; and David struck out. 3:0 Israel.
With Adam on the mound, they started with a single to CF but the runner was caught stealing to 2B. This was followed by a strike out, single to RF and another strike out to end the inning.
Second inning we started with Noam doubling to CF, Assaf struck; out Halper flied out to LF and Yotam lined out to short stop.
The English team started with another single to SS, the second batter grounded out to SS for a double play 2B and 1B, and then a pop up to SS ended the inning. Score still 3:0 Israel.
At the top of the third, we started with a fly out from Adam to CF; Ethan singled to SS; Meoded hit another single to LF, Hadar popped up; David singled to 2B; and Noam ended the inning with a strike out with bases loaded. The British team grounded out to 2B; doubled to LF; but a fly out to CF and ground out to 3B ended the inning with no damage.
In the fourth inning, Assaf walked; Halper tripled over the head of CF; Assaf scored; Yotam struck out; Adam singled and drove Halper in; Ethan grounded out to SS into a double play. Score Israel 5 London Mets 0.
The Mets started their half of the fourth inning with a single to SS; a double to CF that drove their first run in; another double to RF that drove in another run; a pop up to RF; fly out to RF; and a strike out to end the inning. Score Israel 5: London 2
Fifth inning - we didn’t do much except for a single by Meoded. But then the London Mets didn’t do that much either!
Sixth and last inning - Noam walked; Assaf singled to RF; Halper got on base on a fielder’s choice; Yotam walked; and Adam, with a sac fly out to RF, drove Noam in to extend our lead to 6:2. Ethan ended the inning with a fly out to CF.
The Mets started their come back with a double to LF; the second batter hit a single to short stop and made it to base when we threw the runner from second out at 3B; a fly out to CF and then a single to CF. With 2 outs, their player hit the ball to the infield and Adam over threw 1B allowing, a player to score. Then another single to RF and another run scored. The last out was a ground out to end the game - Israel 6 London Mets 4.
We made it to the championship for the second year in a row. We played a tough game against the Czech Academy, a strong team that beat us 17-1. With pride we returned home with the silver medal and a goal to go further next year.
Well done to all the players and coaches and staff for an excellent tournament.