Park Vista Community High School teammates Ethan Strikowski, Matt Lashley and Jason Lashley helped lead the USA U18 baseball team to capture the gold medal at the 2022 Maccabiah Games this summer in Israel.
The 21st Maccabiah Games in July featured Jewish athletes from around the world competing in 42 sports categories.
The USA U18 baseball team won all five games played to earn the gold in Ra’anana. They defeated Canada in two meetings, 12-2 and 11-9, and won 4-3 and 14-0 against Israel during stage one. In the championship, the USA U18 squad cruised past Israel 11-2.
Spanish River Community High School’s Jakob Smizik also played at a high level to represent South Florida on the USA U18 baseball team. Wayne Stofsky, who is the director of athletics at David Posnack School in Davie, served as an assistant coach.
Twin brothers Matt and Jason Lashley grew up playing together with Strikowski in the West Boynton travel baseball program. They won several tournaments while playing in the South Florida Travel Baseball League. They were teammates on the West Boynton Little League 12U All-Star team, which won the Florida state championship and reached the United States Southeast Regional Tournament in 2017. They also helped to lead Park Vista to a district championship in 2021 and a regional final appearance in 2022.
The close friends were in Israel for the first time and played in front of their family, who were in attendance. They were able to travel and tour around Israel, including visiting the Dead Sea.
“It was an amazing experience and incredible to win the gold,” Strikowski said. “We all had great games. We played really well against the competition. We were able to travel around Israel. We formed a new bond with other players on our team who we can keep in touch with.”
The Lashley brothers and Strikowski were the first three hitters in the lineup for the USA U18 team throughout the tournament. They also created another memorable moment together on the diamond by starting a game with three consecutive hits. Matt ripped a leadoff double, Jason had an RBI single, and Strikowski delivered a single.
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“It was a very cool experience and a top moment for me in baseball,” Jason Lashley said. “When we won, everyone was going crazy, and there is nothing like winning a gold medal. We have known each other for a while, since we were toddlers, and to be the top three batters representing Team USA was really cool. The coaches were great and really helped us.”
Matt Lashley played shortstop and Jason Lashley spent time at second base and third base during the tournament. Strikowski played centerfield for the first time and also played first base. Strikowski was a leading hitter for the tournament, which included a four-hit game. Jason had a three-hit game, and Matt also enjoyed success at the plate.
“The opening ceremony was really cool walking into the stadium,” Matt Lashley said. “We were signing autographs during the tournament. We had a chip on our shoulder playing for a gold medal, and we did not want to let anyone down.”
The USA U18 baseball team also had the opportunity to interact with former four-time MLB All-Star Ian Kinsler, who addressed the team. Kinsler will serve as the manager for Team Israel at the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Strikowski graduated from Park Vista this past May. He will play collegiate baseball at the University of Tampa. The Lashley twins will enter their senior season at Park Vista and will both play the infield.
“It was a great way to cap off our last tournament for all of us together,” Jason Lashley said.
The 21st Maccabiah Games featured 10,000 Jewish athletes from 60 countries and took place at venues in 18 Israeli cities. The United States had the second largest delegation behind Israel. The opening ceremonies took place on July 14 at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, and the closing was July 25 in Rishon LeZion.