Team Israel pulls off late-game rally edging out Team Nicaragua


Miami, Florida – It was third time’s the charm for Team Israel managing to overcome their frustrations at the plate getting the better of Team Nicaragua 3-1. The eventual victors were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, squandering two previous bases-loaded situations in the first and sixth inning.

New York Yankees reliever Jonathan Loáisiga, arguably the best pitcher in Nicaragua’s arsenal, was brought in for the eighth, charged with protecting a slim one-run lead. With two runners on, Spencer Horwitz singled on a line drive to left field tying the game up. After Loaisiga intentionally walked Noah Mendlinger to load the bases, Michael Wielansky grounded into a forceout at home plate. Ryan Lavarnway clipped the catcher Melvin Novoa breaking up any potential double play.

Sandor Guido, Nicaragua’s skipper, challenged the play citing interference but the call was upheld. With an opportunity to take the lead, Garrett Stubbs hit the go-ahead two-run ground-rule double to left field. It ultimately proved to be a game-winning play.

Low scoring affair

Both sides had several opportunities to score. At the bottom of the first, Team Israel loaded the bases after Zack Gelof grounded into a double play. Ronald Medrano hit Joc Pederson before giving up a single to Matt Mervis, issuing a free pass to Alex Dickerson. Medrano regained control striking out Lavarnway using a fastball on the payoff pitch.

Nicaragua threatened at the top of the second only to be turned away when Dean Kremer got Sandy Bermudez to ground into a force out at second base, stranding two.

The scoreless stalemate ended in the fifth when Steven Leyton crushed an RBI double off the left-field wall for the go-ahead run. Israel tried to respond only to strand a runner in scoring position. Leo Crawford retired Mervis via a pop-out to left fielder Norlando Valle ending the inning.

Moreover Israel’s struggles at the plate continued. The team loaded the bases again in the sixth only to see pinch-hitter Danny Valencia ground into a rally-killing 6-4-3 double play. Carlos Teller had replaced Osman Gutierrez, shutting the door.

Fans saw a familiar face on the mound as Richard Bleier pitched an effective eighth for Israel striking out a pair. Loáisiga could not protect his team’s one-run lead. Furthermore, Nicaragua’s situation was compounded by the upheld call extending Israel’s time at the plate. Converting on their latest (and last) opportunity, they would go on to win their first game of this year’s World Baseball Classic.

Impressions

Importantly, going into Sunday’s contest, it was a must-win for both countries. After dropping yesterday’s game against Puerto Rico, Nicaragua needed to bounce back to avoid going 0-2. Israel, meanwhile, sought to start their tournament on the right foot. It didn’t necessarily come down to who was the better team, just who wanted it more.

For the latter, their persistence finally paid off in a big way. Previously, I thought they were going to overturn the call at home plate. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made. Regardless, Nicaragua needed to score runs and failed to do so. Dropping 0-2, they now face a determined D.R. team looking to rebound from their loss to Venezuela. Subsequently, Israel doesn’t face an easy opponent either, they’ll play Puerto Rico. Both Team Israel and Team Nicaragua are back on the field Monday.

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