In the first ever game for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic Qualifying Tournament, it was a pair of California Golden Bears who fueled the 7-3 win for the blue and white over South Africa, with the big blow coming on an eighth-inning two-out, bases-clearing double from former Cal catcher Charlie Cutler
Israel took a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first on the first of two solo home runs by 6-foot-7 first baseman Nate Frieman, but South Africa kept things tight through the sixth inning.
After Israel escaped a two-on, one-out predicament in the bottom of the frame, former Bear Josh Satin worked a five-pitch walk to lead off the top of the seventh, and moved to second on a first-pitch single from Oregon alum Jack Marder.
Satin's former Cal teammate Cutler -- who started behind the plate and caught all nine innings for Israel -- then laid down a picture-perfect sacrifice bunt to move two runners into scoring position. After Jake Lemmerman flew out to shallow left, South Africa reliever Jared Elario uncorked a slider in the dirt on a 1-1 count to Ben Guez, allowing Satin to scamper home and put Israel up, 2-0.
In the top of the eighth, Israel got a two-out rally going thanks to former All-Star Shawn Green, who got his first hit in five years when he legged out a ground ball to the left side.
Satin -- who grew up watching Green during his tenure with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- then worked another five-pitch walk to put men at first and second.
After Marder took a 2-1 pitch off of his left shoulder to load the bases, South Africa brought in 31-year old right-handed reliever Carl Michaels to face the left-handed hitting Cutler.
After taking a curve high for ball one, Cutler spun on an inside fastball and smoked it up the first base line, clearing the bases for a three-run, game-breaking double -- his second hit of the day.
Both Cutler and Satin started in Team Israel's first WBC game, with Satin hitting sixth and playing third base, going 1-for-3 with two runs and two walks. Cutler hit eighth, and finished the day 2-for-3.
Cutler deftly handled manager Brad Ausmus's pitching staff, shepherding six pitchers through the game, allowing three runs, six walks and striking out seven. Cutler made several heads-up plays behind the dish, saving two pitches in the dirt to preserve strikeouts and making the final out of the bottom of the eighth inning, catching a twisting foul pop off the bat of second baseman Paul Bell.
South Africa made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth when Israeli-born reliever Shlomo Lipetz allowed three walks and recorded just one out in the bottom of the ninth. Reliever Jeff Kaplan then came in and walked Karl Weitz to force in a run. A tough hop to shortstop Jake Lemmerman on a grounder from Alessio Angelucci resulted in an error, allowing South Africa's second run to score. Designated hitter Richard Holgate, who had recorded South Africa's last hit in the sixth inning, tapped Kaplan's 1-2 offering out in front of the plate, where Cutler took charge and fired to first for the second out. Kaplan then got speedster Gift Ngoepe to pop out to short to end the game.
Israel now moves on to Game Three of the Jupiter, Fla., pool, on Friday at 1 p.m. EST, where it will face the winner of France and Spain. That game will be broadcast live on the MLB Network.
If Israel wins that game, it will play on Sun., Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. EST against the other two-win team from the pool.