March Madness has arrived early — albeit on a different playing field.
The 2017 World Baseball Classic kicked off Monday morning with a stunning upset: Israel, making its first-ever appearance in the WBC, shocked two-time tournament medalist Korea with a 2-1 win in extra innings.
Israel shortstop Scott Burcham played the role of hero, driving in the game-winning run in the top of the 10th inning on an infield single.
Israel scored its only other run on Tyler Krieger’s bases-loaded walk in the second inning, notching its first-ever win in the international tournament despite tallying just two extra-base hits.
The Israelis overcame gigantic odds just to reach the WBC, defeating Brazil, Great Britain and Pakistan in qualifying play to earn the tournament’s final spot. They entered the tourney ranked 14th among 16 teams in ESPN.com’s WBC power rankings, and with good reason: Israel’s roster is comprised mostly of minor leaguers and doesn’t include prominent Jewish Major League Baseball stars like Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler and Joc Pederson.
So, who are these guys?
Baseball fans will recognize a few players on Israel’s roster, namely free agent outfielder Sam Fuld, Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Ike Davis and Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Scott Feldman.
Diehard Red Sox fans also will recall former Boston pitcher Craig Breslow and catcher Ryan Lavarnway, whose 10th-inning single set up the go-ahead run. Sox minor leaguer Mike Meyers even scored the game-winning run as a pinch hitter.
Outside that group, it’s mostly a list of no-names, but apparently those no-names can play. Israel will have to get through Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands in Pool A if it wants to advance past the group stage, but it’s off to a great start.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images