Israel’s surprising World Baseball Classic run ends with loss to Japan
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Israel’s surprising World Baseball Classic run ends with loss to Japan

Team Israel

Team Israel players seen in the dugout prior to their World Baseball Classic game against Japan in Tokyo, March 15, 2017. (Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Team Israel saw its Cinderella run at the World Baseball Classic end with a loss to Japan in Tokyo.

Japan snapped a scoreless tie with five runs in the sixth inning on the way to an 8-3 victory on Wednesday before more than 40,000 fans packed into the Tokyo Dome.

Israel, the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the showcase tournament, dropped its last two games in the second round and will not advance to the semifinals next week in Los Angeles. Japan, with a tournament record of 6-0, and the Netherlands will advance from Pool E. They will join the top two teams from the Pool F games currently being played in San Diego.

Israel had startled the baseball world by opening the tournament with four straight victories, including a 4-1 win over powerhouse Cuba in the first game of the second round. But Israel lost 12-2 to the Netherlands on Monday and needed to beat Japan to move on.

Last week, in the first round, the Israelis squeaked past third-ranked South Korea, 2-1, in extra innings, outscored fourth-ranked Taiwan, 15-7, and defeated ninth-ranked the Netherlands, 4-2, to finish first in Pool A with a 3-0 record.

This is the first year that Israel has qualified for the tournament. In 2012, its inaugural WBC squad narrowly missed advancing past the qualifiers.

Most of the players are American Jews, among them several former major leaguers. WBC rules state that players who are eligible for citizenship of a country may play on its team. Jews and their grandchildren, and the grandchildren’s spouses, have the right to become Israeli citizens.

The team appeared on the field at each game for the national anthem of Israel, “Hatikvah,” with matching blue kippahs. The club’s mascot was known as Mensch on a Bench.