Israel had already left the bases loaded twice against Korea in a 1-1 game when Scott Burcham stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs in the top of the 10th inning of the World Baseball Classic opener on Monday.Burcham had been victimized the second time
Israel had already left the bases loaded twice against Korea in a 1-1 game when Scott Burcham stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs in the top of the 10th inning of the World Baseball Classic opener on Monday.
Burcham had been victimized the second time -- he struck out against Cardinals closer Seunghwan Oh with the bases full to end the eighth. But in extra innings, he came through. Burcham slashed the go-ahead hit, an infield single off Chang-Yong Lim, that gave Israel a 2-1 win over the Pool A hosts at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.
The 23-year-old Team Israel shortstop -- a Rockies Minor Leaguer who was a 25th-round Draft pick in 2015 and played for Class A Asheville in 2016 -- fell behind, 1-2, against Lim before grounding a ball up the middle. Korean second baseman Geonchang Seo made a sliding stop to keep the ball in the infield, but he had no play on any of the runners, and Mike Meyers crossed the plate with the tiebreaking run.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
"The previous at-bat, Oh kind of blew fastballs by me," Burcham said. "So I came into the at-bat, two fastballs by me, and I knew they were coming with another fastball. I tried to widen up, choke up and put the ball in play somewhere, and luckily I found a hole."
Burcham's hit gave Israel a huge win in the first game the country has played in the Classic -- against a Korean team that has twice advanced deep into the tournament, with a third-place finish in the inaugural 2006 Classic and a second-place finish in 2009.
"I found they were all really, really good pitchers," Burcham said of the Korean staff. "A little different than I'm used to seeing in the Minor Leagues in America."
Burcham was almost not on Team Israel at all. Just before Israel's qualifier for the Classic in Brooklyn in September, Astros scout Alex Jacobs, who serves as Israel's director of player personnel, found Burcham -- through Facebook.
That's how Jacobs often researched potential players to add to Israel's roster, he told JewishBaseballNews.com. To be eligible for Team Israel, you must be Jewish or have a Jewish parent or grandparent.
Burcham was one of Jacobs' discoveries. Based on the information on Burcham's Facebook page, Jacobs called Israel manager Jerry Weinstein, who called Burcham's manager, who asked Burcham if he was Jewish. He was.
Burcham went on to become Israel's shortstop, and he led the team's starters in batting during the qualifier. Burcham hit .455 (5-for-11) in Israel's three games, all wins, as the team earned the final spot in the WBC '17 main draw.
His follow-up in the first game of the tournament was even bigger.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament will be distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.