Israel's debut in the World Baseball Classic went about as well as the team could have hoped, notching a 7-3 victory over South Africa in Jupiter, Florida, on Wednesday night. Led by a pair of solo home runs from first baseman Nate Freiman and a bases-clearing double from catcher Charles Cutler, Israel overpowered South Africa late in the game to claim victory in the first qualifier match of the 2013 tournament.
South Africa starter Dylan Unsworth pitched very well but took the loss despite his best efforts. The young right-hander struck out six and walked none in six innings of work, a solo home run in the first the only blemish in his pitching line. The bullpen could not keep the game close, however, surrendering six runs in the final three frames.
Israel's pitching -- featuring seven scoreless frames from Eric Berger, Brett Lorin and Josh Zeid -- shut down South Africa's bats for most of the game, allowing just three ninth-inning runs (two earned) after the game was well out of reach.
Manager Brad Ausmus skirted talk of his team being the favorite to emerge from the bracket, [but] he acknowledged that he wants Israel to embrace the high expectations.
"That's the goal," Ausmus said. "That's absolutely the goal. There's no second place here. We're well aware of that."
Israel will next play the winner of Thursday night's 7:00 ET matchup between Spain and France, while South Africa will take on the loser of that game. One more loss will put South Africa out of the double elimination tournament. Both games will take place Friday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.