By Scott Barancik, Editor

Israel’s national baseball team, buoyed by American players who obtained dual citizenship this year, dominated France 8-2 today in the European Championships to guarantee a spot in the upcoming Olympic qualifying tournament.

paller pic

Robb Paller’s solo HR in the 4th padded Israel’s lead to 6-0

Israel never trailed, scoring three runs in the first inning and going ahead 7-0 before France scored its two lone runs in the 5th. Former major leaguer Danny Valencia, independent-league outfielder Robb Paller, and former minor-league catcher Nick Rickles homered, while outfielder Blake Gailen, a Triple-A prospect with the Los Angeles Angels, stroked two doubles.

On the mound, starter Joey Wagman pitched four scoreless innings, while Zack Weiss and Jonathan De Marte closed out the game with three perfect innings of relief. (Click here for complete stats.)

“For months it’s been a dream for us to reach the Olympic Games qualifiers alongside the very top teams in Europe, and today, this dream came true,” Israel baseball president Peter Kurz said in a news release. “We still have more games to win, but our players are motivated to go all the way to Tokyo 2020.”

In another bit of good news today, Jeremy Bleich, a Triple-A reliever for the Minnesota Twins, has joined Israel’s roster.

Israel is not done with the European Championships in Germany. After going 4-1 in the initial part of the tournament, the team’s quarterfinal win today moves it to the semifinals tomorrow.

But regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, Israel will compete in the Olympic qualifiers to be held September 18-22 in Italy. The winner of that tournament will represent Europe and Africa in the 2020 Olympics.

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