Israeli baseball team wins for first time in Olympic history

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For the first time in its Olympic history, the Israeli baseball team has won a game.

A three-run home run from former Minnesota Twin Danny Valencia helped seal a 12-5 victory over Mexico on Sunday.

“I don’t think it’s so much about beating Mexico.” Israel coach and catcher Nick Rickles said of the win. “I think it’s a lot to just raise awareness for baseball in Israel. For me, I was just taking in the moment and seeing after the game the amount of love that we received from people back in Israel. We had messages on top of messages from people just saying thank you.”

The win also marked the country’s first team win at the Olympics since 1968 — 20 years after it gained independence from Britain.

Israel bounced back from losses to South Korea and the US to keep its Olympic hopes alive, while the loss sent Mexico home.

On Tuesday, Israel (1-2) will play against the winner of Monday night’s game between South Korea and the Dominican Republic (both 1-1), with the chance to advance to a matchup against the United States or Japan on Wednesday that will determine a berth in the gold-medal game.

“I don’t think there was a lot of expectations coming into Israel playing baseball at all,” said Rickles, who is in his 10th season with the national team.

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With former MLB first baseman and five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez leading the way, Mexico was outscored 20-9 in its three losses.

“I’m in shock. Not even in my worst nightmares did I think that this would be the result.” manager Benji Gil said of Mexico’s Olympic performance.

— With AP

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