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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Wow wow wow: A club way to teach young people about drug resistance

Glorious Erhuanga is rarely ill, she says. Which is a good thing because she does not care much for medical drugs. And because, by her own admission, she is an abuser of drugs. “I do abuse drugs in the sense that I don’t completely do the course. If you feel strong enough, you stop. But…
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    Baseball: Israel overcomes Italy 11-5 to reach gold medal game

    Team Israel upset tournament host Italy 11-5 in the semifinal game of the European Baseball Championships in Avigliano, Italy. The Israeli side beat the odds as well as a powerful Italian national team managed by iconic Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. The Blue and White responded with its own icon: 41-year-old pitcher Shlomo Lipetz, who has played on Israeli national teams at every level over a period that spans 4 decades. By winning Friday night, Israel earned its first-ever berth in the European Gold Medal game and will face-off against the heavily favorited squad from the Netherlands on  Sunday in Torino.

    While its potent offense produced 11 runs, reaching a double-digit score for the third time in five games, the key to Israel’s success was once again its pitching. Shlomo Lipetz, having pitched for Israeli teams since 1989 thought he had earned a bye following his appearance with Israel’s Olympic squad in Tokyo last month.  

    The Tel Aviv native had planned to sit this tournament out to prepare for his upcoming wedding in NY only a few weeks away. “But Nate (Israel’s newly appointed Manager Fish) called me, and I got on a plane.”

    Lipetz was hailed by his teammates the moment he joined the squad. “He provides leadership and a sense of purpose the minute he walks into the clubhouse”, said Israel’s top hitter Mitch Glasser.

     Mitch Glasser, who leads Team Israel with a .500  Batting Average, had 2 doubles and 4 RBIs  (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL/ COURTESY) Mitch Glasser, who leads Team Israel with a .500 Batting Average, had 2 doubles and 4 RBIs (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL/ COURTESY)

    However, when Friday’s game got underway, it seemed the Italians had prepared a welcoming of their own for Lipetz. Sluggers Darion Pizzano and Vito Friscia belted back-to-back homers to open the scoring in the first frame and Frederico Celli added a solo blast in the second giving Italy a 4-1 lead after only an inning and a half. It looked as if the mighty Italian bats would continue to pound Lipetz and run away with the game.

    However, Lipetz and catcher Tal Erel made an immediate adjustment in their approach to facing the Italian hitters. Thus, despite the early bombardment, the veteran hurler was not rattled. Lipetz shut out the Italians over the next 4 innings. He didn’t even flinch when his infield made two consecutive errors to load the bases in the fourth, but instead calmly quashed the threat with a strikeout.

    Italy’s pitchers, on the other hand, succumbed to bouts of wildness. Starter Claudio Scotti walked four straight Israelis in the first to gift Israel its first run but escaped without further damage. Scotti opened the second frame in similar fashion and this time Assaf Lowengart, who had stood out in earlier games with a tournament-leading three homers to his credit, lined a clutch 2-out double to tie the score at 4-4 and restore Israel’s confidence in its ability to come back. Israel continued its onslaught in the third, going ahead 7-4 by plating three once again, led by an RBI single by catcher Erel, and consecutive RBI doubles by Glasser and Ben Wanger. “Shlomo has stood up for us, so we wanted to get it back for him,” said Glasser.

    Israel extended its lead to 8-4 with a run in the fifth. Then in the sixth, the Israelis brought the Italians to their knees by scoring three runs in an inning for the third time in the game. The big blow was yet another Glasser double, this time with the bases loaded.

    Manager Fish brought in fireballer Bubby Rossman to replace Lipetz in the seventh. Rossman’s overpowering stuff completely demoralized the Italians. Thus after an inning and a third, Fish allowed multi-talented shortstop Ty Kelly to pitch, so as to rest his pitching staff for Sunday. Kelly responded by brilliantly mopping up the Italian hitters the rest of the way until the game mercifully ended.

    For Lipetz, who has played alongside and mentored four generations of Israeli players, the victory was far more than just another win.

    He was filled with emotion as he expressed his satisfaction in seeing young stars like Lowengart and Erel blossom into leaders who are helping to build an Israeli baseball program that produces the likes of Itai Goldner, Ivri Margolin and David Ibn Ezra. He loves seeing his American teammates like Kelly, Glasser, DJ Sharabi and Rob Paller return year after year and blend with newcomers to the team like Rossman and Jordan Petrushka. “Americans have nurtured our program and today’s roster is full of home-grown talent. We all come together as one.”

     Shortstop Ty Kelly has been a key to Israel's defense while hitting .333. The former Mets and Phillies infielder closed vs. Italy, pitching the last 1-2/3 innings (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL/ COURTESY) Shortstop Ty Kelly has been a key to Israel’s defense while hitting .333. The former Mets and Phillies infielder closed vs. Italy, pitching the last 1-2/3 innings (credit: ISRAEL ASSOCIATION OF BASEBALL/ COURTESY)

    Israel will take on 3-time European Champion Netherlands in the finals on Sunday night at 9:30 PM Israel time.

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