Ryan Lavarnway and Josh Zeid continued their brilliant performances in Seoul, Korea, for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, helping to elevate the huge underdog to the second round of play, which will take place in Tokyo.
Lavarnway, who had a struggling major league career mostly with the Red Sox, and is hopeful of hooking on with Oakland, is the Yale product who tore up the Ivy League with his batting. Zeid, a pitcher who starred at Hamden Hall, is also unsigned by an MLB club, after a promising start with Houston. He’s now pitching with the New Britain Bees of the independent Atlantic League.
After Israel’s 4-2 victory over the star filled Netherlands team, Lavarnway was named the Most Valuable Player in Pool A of the WBC. He batted .556 with a .692 on base percentage, .889 slugging percentage, one home run, three walks and three RBI’s while catching all three of Israel’s games.
He also had a key “caught stealing” throw in the opener.
Zeid had saves in the two biggest games
Zeid got the saves in games #1 and #3, first going three tension-packed innings against host Korea. Then, facing the Netherlands, he hurled two more frames under pressure. With Israel ahead 4-1 and one out in the eighth, the Netherlands loaded the bases. Jonathan Schoop (Baltimore Orioles) was at the plate. He hit a potential double play grounder but a run came in on an error and everybody was safe.
Then with the dangerous Didi Gregorius, a popular figure here with Yankee fans, the next batter, Zeid induced another ground ball and Didi was doubled up.
Ex-Met Ike Davis chipped in
As it did in the previous game, Israel put up a crooked number (3) in the first inning. Key hits were made by ex-New York Met Ike Davis, and Lavarnway with an RBI single.
Few if any expected Israel to win even one game, much less three. The team, unlike most of those in the Classic, does not have a single active major leaguer, and the win yesterday was over the Netherlands, a team with several MLB players including Gregorius and Boston’s Xander Bogaerts.
Now, along with the Netherlands who came in second in the pool, Israel moves on to stiffer competition in Pool E, which takes place in the Tokyo Dome starting this weekend. It will face Japan, Cuba, Australia, and China, as well as the Netherlands again.
Israel’s first baseman, Nate Freiman, remarked that “coming into Seoul, saying we are coming into this pool and we want to advance, that might have struck some people as a little unlikely. But I think now, maybe a little bit less.”
The baseball world is taking notice. Could there be another miracle from the desert?