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One year ago today: Israel qualifies for Olympic baseball for first time in history

One year ago today: Israel qualifies for Olympic baseball for first time in history
22/09/2020
On 22 September 2019, an 11-1 win against South Africa sealed the historic accomplishment that will help Israel send their biggest-ever Olympic delegation to the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Israel defeated South Africa, 11-1, on 22 September 2019 in Parma, Italy, and earned the WBSC Europe/Africa spot in the baseball tournament of the Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020.

Danny Valencia, who had played 864 Major League Baseball (MLB) games before committing to the Israeli baseball programme, commented after the game: "What we did was huge, it shouldn't go unnoticed."

Israel emerged from Pool B of the European Championship, defeating Lithuania in a three-game series. The team qualified for the semifinals of the European Championship, thereby earning a spot in the six-team Europe/Africa Qualifier.

The world No. 19 entered the WBSC Olympic Baseball Qualifier as the third seeds in a round-robin tournament that featured long-time European juggernauts Netherlands and hosts Italy.

Israel started with a 3-0 win over Spain on 18 September. The day after, they outscored favourites Netherlands, 8-1 before defeating Italy, 8-2, on 20 September. Israel then fell to the Czech Republic, 7-4, as the team was already seemingly focused on their next game with South Africa, where a win would send them to Tokyo 2020.

Israel has never played in a Baseball World Cup but appeared in the World Baseball Classic twice, being eliminated by Spain during qualifiers in 2013 and defeating Great Britain and Brazil and making it to the 16-team main tournament in 2017. During 2017 group play, they surprisingly defeated Korea, the Netherlands and Chinese Taipei and made it to the second round. They beat Cuba in the second round but were eliminated after losing against the Netherlands and Japan.

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