Two locally connected members of Israel’s national baseball team played key roles in what is probably the biggest upset to take place in the history of the World Baseball Classic. The WBC just got under way today (Monday) in Seoul, South Korea, in the wee hours of the morning here in the U.S. (4:30 a.m. eastern time).
Zeid and Lavarnway the closing battery
Pitcher Josh Zeid, born in New Haven, who pitched at Hamden Hall, and catcher Ryan Lavarnway, a former slugger and all-Ivy Leaguer at Yale, formed the battery during the last three innings of the contest, the final score sending shock waves across the baseball world.
Zeid had a brief stint with Houston and Lavarnway a longer period with the Boston. Zeid currently pitches for the New Britain Bees of the independent Atlantic League. Lavarnway is out of organized baseball, as is his ex-Red Sox teammate and another former Yalie, Craig Breslow, who is also on the Israel roster, but did not appear in the Classic’s opener.
A 10-inning thriller
Played at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, the game went 10-innings. With two outs in the extra inning, Scott Burcham, one of Israel’s “no-namers,” hit a two-strike grounder up the middle, and although the second baseman kept the ball in the infield he had no play as the go-ahead run came in.
In the bottom half of the inning, Zeid, who was pitching his third inning of relief, struck out Dae-Ho Lee, who hit 14 home runs for the Seattle Mariners last season, to end the game.
With Israel having won its opener, anything else would be gravy (kosher, of course), starting with its next game against Chinese Taipei. Meanwhile, Korea risks elimination facing the Netherlands, a team that includes Xander Boegaerts (Red Sox) and Didi Gregorious (Yankees).
This is the first time Israel, which has no active major leaguers on its roster, qualified for the WBC. Right-hander Jason Marquis, who played in the majors for 15 seasons, came out of retirement and allowed two hits and struck out three. He went three innings. Under WBC rules a 50 pitch outing must be followed by four days off.
Lavarnway’s RBI and later a big hit in the 10th
Marquis left with a 1-0 lead created when Lavarnway drew a bases loaded walk.
Then Lavarnway had two big innings behind the plate late in the game. In the eighth, with the score 1-1, the Koreans, had the bases loaded with one out when the catcher nailed a runner at home on a force out.
In the ninth, still 1-1, Zeid gave up a two-out walk. But the runner was thrown out by Lavarnway on an attempted steal to send the game into the tenth.
In the top of the tenth, after Ike Davis, the former New York Met, drew a one-out walk, Lavarnway followed with a single, advancing a pinch runner to third. An out later, an infield single by Burcham brought in what would be the winning run.
Zeid’s three great innings
In his three innings of work Zeid allowed only one hit, struck out four, and walked two. In the bottom of the tenth he retired Korea in order, striking out the dangerous Lee to finish the game. Zeid, as did Marquis, went under the 50-pitch count.
After it was over Zeid said “This has to be it. This has to be the top, top win as a team, I think in my career. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a couple of championships in the lower levels in the Minor Leagues and in high school (Hamden Hall), but nothing compares to this stage.”