“Every game is another story.” – Adamson Head Coach Ana Santiago
The Adamson University (AdU) Lady Falcons started strong, and showed no sign of hesitation as they walloped University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons to walk away with their fifth consecutive UAAP softball title on Thursday, March 26, at the historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
The defending four-time champions got on base early as UP rookie pitcher, Cochise Diolata, walked lead-off batter, Queeny Sabobo. Then, the Maroon defense retired the next two batters. It was, back-to-back MVP awardee, Annalie Benjamen, however, who hit it to deep left-center for a double to score Sabobo, and put Adamson on the scoreboard, 1-0.
Angelie Ursabia, then, made a solid hit to the right field that UP’s right fielder, Gabin Paz, could not retrieve, and the Adamson junior third baseman took first base. Benjamen crossed the plate, while the play was ongoing to double the lead, 2-0. Gelyn Lamata connected with a base hit to the center that led Ursabia to another run, 3-0. Diolata gave up two balls to graduating Clariz Palma, but three consecutive strikes sent the senior packing for the last out.
The Lady Falcons had a big defensive side on the first. Furtthermore, Maroons lead-off batter Gelai Penales’ pop fly was caught by Palma. Then, Benjamen dismissed the next batters with six straight strikes to register her 13th and 14th strikeouts of the series.
With a big 3-0 lead, Adamson threatened to blow the game open. In spite of this, UP outfield continued their impressive showing at the start as left fielder Chanty Bongat and Paz caught the fly balls of Riflayca Basa and Krisna Paguican, respectively. Sabobo, however, made sure she would get a base hit as she connected to right-center. Gonzales almost got to ball, but was unable to catch it, as she collided with Sabobo near the second base. Second batter, Lorna Adorable had a single as Sabobo added one more run to the tally, 4-0. Rookie of the Year, Florabelle Pabiana flyed out again to Gonzales for the final out of their side of the second inning.
Second-year player, Bongat picked up from where she left off from the last game. The substitute left fielder connected to deep center to register UP’s first hit of the game. Outgoing Maroons captain, Seiko Hashimoto, followed it up with another hit to the area, but Bongat was forced out on second by Adamson rightfielder Lamata off a throw to Edna Severino. The Falcons clamped down UP’s offense, dismissing the next two to end the second inning with a 4-0 lead.
The reigning queens added two more runs in the third inning. With Angie Palacol pitching for Diolata, Benjamen was able to connect to the infield, but Maroons newbie second baseman, MJ Abanes, failed to retrieve the ball. The UP defense bounced back when they forced out Benjamen on second. Furthermore, Lamata flyed out to centerfield for the second out. Palma, then, connected right-center for a double to score Ursabia, 5-0. Basa had a single, and Palma added another run, 6-0. Abanes caught the Paguican fly to end UP’s misery. Adamson countered and stopped UP from getting on base to end the third inning.
The challengers had a solid defensive inning at top of the fourth. After Sabobo was hit by pitch, Adorable’s bunt was retrieved by the first baseman, Dennise Cruz, to get the first out. In that same play, Sabobo stole second to move to a scoring position. With a runner on second, Pabiana hit a fly ball to third baseman, DC Cruz. Gonzales stepped on the third base, and forced a running Sabobo out off the throw from Cruz. Gonzales ended this side as she took care of a Benjamen fly. UP consolidated this defense with a promising offensive half-inning. Moreover, Junior player, Paz, connected to the center, which went past Adamson second baseman Severino. Another error by Adamson advanced Paz to third with her batchmate, DC Cruz, taking second base with no outs. Then, Adamson star pitcher, Benjamen, struck out Bongat. Lady Maroons’ Hashimoto connected near the right foul line, but Pabiana caught the fly for the second out. Dennise Cruz flyed out to center as the champions survived that scare.
Another solid defensive battle occurred in the next two innings as neither team was able to score. UP, led by substitute pitcher and rookie, Mary Bernabe, limited Adamson to two hits as the infield clipped the defending queens’ offense. The Falcons on their part just gave up a hit and a walk in that span.
Carrying only a 6-0 lead going into the final inning, Adamson cranked it up to open the floodgates. Lead-off batter, Ursabia, made a booming double to left-center to get the ball rolling. Lamata registered another double to the same spot to score Ursabia, 7-0. A fielding error by UP moved Lamata to third base. Palma then popped out to Diolata for the first out. Basa then connected to the center for a sacrifice fly as Lamata padded on the lead, 8-0.
With one more out to end the inning and Diolata back on the mound, Paguican connected to the right and almost got tagged by UP, but the last game’s best player was called safe. That set the stage for Most Homerun awardee, Queen Sabobo, to end the game in style. On a 2-1 pitch count, the Adamson veteran shortstop slapped the ball hard to deep center, which UP’s Penales dislodged the fence in the attempt to catch it, to score another homer bringing in two more runs to up the count to 10-0. Coach Ana Santiago fielded in graduating player, Glesyl Opjer. Opjer could not deliver though as Diolata registered her second strikeout of the game against the senior to end the top of the final inning.
The pressure may have been lifted off their shoulders, but UP tried to at least put something on the scoreboard. Graduating captain, Hashimoto made contact with the ball but was caught by third baseman Ursabia. Dennise Cruz was able to hit the ball as well, and Sabobo dropped the ball to advanced the UP first baseman. Two fly outs sealed the deal for the Falcons as they ended another perfect season.
This victory extends the AdU Lady Falcons’ winning streak to 62 games going back to UAAP Season 72. The UP Lady Maroons on the other hand duplicated their runner-up finish from Season 73 losing to the same team. AdU swept the eliminations and were outright champions in that season.
During postgame, winning Adamson head coach, Ana Santiago, was proud of her team’s accomplishments. “Wala na mga seniors natin na dapat asahan. Kahit for the past four years nanalo kayo kelangan pa rin mag work hard at nag step-up ang lahat mas lalo na ang bench players namin dati,” Coach Ana told us. Moreover, Coach Santiago commended the UP Lady Maroons squad. “Hanga ako sa kanila especially their pitcher. Maraming rookies sa kanila. Kita naman sa kanila na ‘di sila bumibitaw, lumalaban sila. Kaya sinabi ko sa kanila kagabi, na fighter ang kalaban natin. If you want to win, kung gusto niyo tapusin, kelangan kung anong lakas nila, higitan natin.”
This is the first five-peat in any sport in Adamson’s history.