The World Baseball Classic began in the wee hours this morning as Team Israel took on Team South Korea. On paper that’s a mismatch — Korea is one of the better teams in the tournament and certainly has produced a good number of major leaguers while Israel is one of the lowest-ranked squads — but they don’t play the game on paper. Israel beat South Korea in an upset, 2-1 in extra innings.
Israel doesn’t have a lot of baseball players. Indeed, there is only one native-born Israeli on the roster. But like a lot of teams in the WBC, they welcome players with a shared heritage, so there are some recognizable names on the team. One of them, Jason Marquis, got the start and pitched three scoreless innings. Israel’s only run in the first nine innings came on a bases loaded walk in the second off of Won Jung Chang. Beyond that, however, Team Israel had some trouble scoring, thanks in part to the fact that South Korea has Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh on the staff. He shut them out for two innings later in the game. Korea only scored once in regulation as well, via an RBI single from Geonchang Seo. The game would go to the 10th.
In the top of the frame Israel put two on via a walk and a single. Then Scott Burcham hit a ground ball to second which Seo couldn’t get a handle on, allowing Mike Myers — who was running for Ike Davis — to score. Josh Zeid, who pitched three innings, got the win by shutting down South Korea in the bottom half.
This doesn’t end things for anyone, as it’s not a single-elimination tournament in the first round. Tomorrow Israel will go on to face Chinese Taipei and South Korea will face the Netherlands.