Israel Tops South Africa 7-3 In First WBC Qualifier

Shawn Green of the New York Mets hits a RBI single against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Two home runs from first baseman Nate Freiman and strong pitching performances led Israel to a 7-3 victory over South Africa in the inaugural qualifier game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night.

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.

The Israel team, which features former All-Star outfielder Shawn Green, is now seen by many as the team to beat in their four-team qualifying bracket, per MLB.com:

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.

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