Baseball: Israel beats Italy 11-5 to reach gold

Team Israel beat Italy 11-5 in the European Baseball Championships semi-final match in Avigliano, Italy. The Israeli team beat all odds as well as a powerful Italian national team led by iconic Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. Blue and White responded with his own icon: 41-year-old pitcher Shlomo Lipetz, who has played for Israel’s national teams at all levels over a period spanning 4 decades. Israel took their first place in the European gold medal match on Friday night and will face the very favorite team of the Netherlands in Turin on Sunday.
As his powerful offense produced 11 points, hitting a double-digit score for the third time in five games, Israel’s key to success was once again his pitching. Shlomo Lipetz, who has pitched for Israeli teams since 1989, believed he got a pass after appearing with Israel’s Olympic team in Tokyo last month.
The Tel Aviv native had planned to attend the tournament to prepare for his next wedding in New York in just a few weeks. “But Nate (Israel’s new manager, Fish) called me and I got on a plane.”

Lipetz was greeted by his teammates the moment he joined the team. “He provides leadership and a sense of purpose the minute he walks into the clubhouse,” said Israeli top hitter Mitch Glasser.

Mitch Glasser, who leads Team Israel with a .500 batting average, had 2 doubles and 4 RBIs (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL / COURTESY)

However, when Friday’s game started it looked like the Italians had prepared their own welcome for Lipetz. Hitters Darion Pizzano and Vito Friscia hit back-to-back homers to open the scoring in the first frame and Frederico Celli added a solo explosion in the second giving Italy a 4-1 lead after just one and a half innings. It looked like the mighty Italian bats would continue to pound Lipetz and run away with the game.

However, Lipetz and receiver Tal Erel immediately changed their approach against the Italian hitters. So, despite the early bombardment, the veteran pitcher was not shaken. Lipetz shut out the Italians in the next 4 innings. He didn’t even flinch when his infielder made two consecutive mistakes to charge the goals in the fourth, but instead calmly canceled the threat with a strikeout.

The Italian pitchers, on the other hand, succumbed to fits of madness. Starter Claudio Scotti scored four Israelis in a row in the first to give Israel their first run, but escaped without further damage. Scotti opened the second quarter in a similar fashion and this time Assaf Lowengart, who had stood out in previous games with three tournament-leading home runs to his name, doubled a brace to 2 to tie the score at 4-4. and restore Israel’s score. confidence in his ability to come back. Israel continued their assault in the third, taking a 7-4 lead by another three-point tackle, led by an RBI single from wide receiver Erel, and back-to-back RBI doubles from Glasser and Ben Wanger. “Shlomo defended us, so we wanted to get him back for him,” Glasser said.

Israel extended their lead to 8-4 with a point in the fifth. Then in the sixth, the Israelis brought the Italians to their knees, scoring three runs in one set for the third time in the game. The big hit was yet another double from Glasser, this time with the bases loaded.

Manager Fish brought in fireballer Bubby Rossman to replace Lipetz in the seventh. Rossman’s damning stuff completely demoralized the Italians. So, after an inning and a third, Fish allowed multi-talented shortstop Ty Kelly to pitch, to rest his pitching team for Sunday. Kelly responded by brilliantly mopping up the Italian hitters until the end of the game.

For Lipetz, who has played alongside and mentored four generations of Israeli players, victory was more than just victory.

He was filled with emotion when he expressed his satisfaction at seeing young stars like Lowengart and Erel become leaders who help build an Israeli baseball program that produces figures like Itai Goldner, Ivri Margolin and David Ibn Ezra. He loves to see his American teammates like Kelly, Glasser, DJ Sharabi and Rob Paller come back year after year and mingle with newcomers to the team like Rossman and Jordan Petrouchka. “The Americans have fed our program and today’s roster is full of local talent. We all come together as one.

    Shortstop Ty Kelly was a key part of Israel's defense, hitting .333.  The former Mets and Phillies infielder finished against Italy, pitching the final 1-2 / 3 innings (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL / COURTESY) Shortstop Ty Kelly was a key part of Israel’s defense, hitting .333. The former Mets and Phillies infielder finished against Italy, pitching the final 1-2 / 3 innings (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL / COURTESY)

Israel will face the three-time European champion Netherlands in the final on Sunday night at 9:30 p.m. Israel time.

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