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Freiman powers Israel in WBC debut

San Diego slugger homers twice in first game of qualifier
September 20, 2012
Nate Freiman's Minor League season may over, but the San Diego Padres' first-base prospect hasn't stopped mashing.

Freiman homered twice Wednesday evening as Israel beat South Africa, 7-3, on Day 1 of the World Baseball Classic's qualifying rounds.

The mid- and postseason Texas League All-Star, who led the circuit in hits (154) and RBIs (105) this year, blasted solo homers in the first and ninth innings at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.

The 6-foot-7 slugger pulled a first-pitch fastball from South Africa starter Dylan Unsworth, who went 7-2 with a 3.90 ERA in 14 games at Class A Short-Season Everett, over the fence in left field with two outs. Then in the ninth, he went yard to left-center off 31-year-old right-hander Carl Michaels.

"It was exciting as a team to score first," Freiman told "We knew [starting pitcher Eric Berger] was going to come out and shut them down for the first couple innings, so we were really excited to get on the board first and get some momentum and get a couple runs for later in the game."

The game was the first of four modified double-elimination qualifying rounds that lead up to the main tournament in March.

Pittsburgh Pirates catching prospect Charles Cutler went 2-for-3 with a bases-clearing double, and Jack Marder, Seattle's No. 14 prospect, added two hits and scored a run for Team Israel, which was making its WBC debut.

Israel starter Berger (1-0) scattered two hits while striking out three batters over three innings, and three relievers carried the shutout bid into the ninth.

South Africa plated three runs on four walks and a fielding error in the ninth before stranding the potential tying run in the on-deck circle.

Selected by the Padres in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft out of Duke University, Freiman is in his fourth year of pro baseball. In 137 Texas League games with the Double-A San Antonio Missions, the 25-year-old batted .298 with 24 homers.

The Wellesley, Mass., native will suit up for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League next month.

"I knew in my mind when I was putting this team together, once the qualifier was moved to September as opposed to November, in my mind he was our three- or four-hole hitter," said Israel manager Brad Ausmus, who worked with Freiman for several years in the Padres organization.

Spain and France will play the second game in Qualifying Group 1 on Thursday at Roger Dean Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals. The winner will face Israel on Friday.