Israel rallies to beat Britain in World Baseball Classic opener
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Israel rallies to beat Britain in World Baseball Classic opener

Jason Marquis, who played 15 years in the major leagues, delivering a pitch for Team Israel against Great Britain, in Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 22, 2016. (Hillel Kuttler)

Jason Marquis, who played 15 years in the major leagues, delivering a pitch for Team Israel against Great Britain in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sept. 22, 2016. (Hillel Kuttler)

NEW YORK (JTA) – Team Israel rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and went on to defeat Great Britain, 5-2, in its opener of the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament on Thursday night.

Israel’s decisive inning included four hits, two walks and two sacrifice flies to erase a 2-1 deficit at MCU Park on Brooklyn’s Coney Island.

Catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who socked three singles, enjoys a moment during pregame warmups with Israel’s bullpen coach Alon Leichman, in Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 22, 2016. (Hillel Kuttler)

Team Israel catcher Ryan Lavarnway enjoys a moment in pregame warmups with bullpen coach Alon Leichman in Brooklyn, Sept. 22, 2016. Lavarnway delivered three hits in Israel’s victory over Great Britain. (Hillel Kuttler)

“It was all about the pitching changes they made,” Israel’s first-base coach Nate Fish said afterward. “The rally coincided exactly with it.”

Israel took the lead against two British relievers following a strong performance by the starter, lefty Michael Roth.

At noon Friday, Israel will face Brazil, which defeated Pakistan, 10-0, earlier in the day. The winner will advance to the final on Sunday; the loser will play Britain or Pakistan in a semifinal on Saturday night.

The qualifying round’s champion will play in the WBC tournament in South Korea in March. The quadrennial event is modeled after soccer’s World Cup.

During the playing of Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” Israel’s players and coaches donned blue yarmulkes.

The loudest ovation during the pregame introductions went to Israel’s first baseman, Ike Davis, who played in nearby Queens for the New York Mets from 2010 to 2014. As a pinch-hitter, Davis delivered a bases-loaded RBI single to center field in the seventh inning three batters after right fielder Zach Borenstein had given Israel its first lead of the night.

Jewish fans waved Israeli flags and cheered loudly throughout the game at the oceanfront ballpark, home to the Mets’ minor league Brooklyn Cyclones. A Coney Island barker entertained fans between innings.

Great Britain had taken the lead in the top of the seventh on a double, an infield out and a sacrifice fly off Josh Zeid, a veteran of Israel’s inaugural WBC team in 2012 that narrowly missed making the tournament. Pitcher Craig Breslow earned the win in relief. Catcher Ryan Lavarnway delivered three hits and threw out a potential base stealer at third.

The three are among nine former major leaguers on the Israel roster, which is primarily made up of Jewish Americans.

Israel’s starter, longtime major leaguer Jason Marquis, pitched effectively over three innings before yielding to Zeid. Brad Goldberg closed out the win.

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