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Tiebreaker Times

Clutch Lacupa takes UST to next stage of Stepladder

NU (6-6, PS: 1-1), 4th0010200340
UST (7-5, PS: 1-1), 3rd0000301474

The University of Santo Tomas Softbelles march on to the next round of the UAAP Softball Stepladder with a huge comeback win against the National University Lady Bulldogs, on Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.

Two rookie pitchers were pitted against one another to start the game as the Lady Bulldogs again began with Rina Vailoces, while the UST Softbelles went with Ricky Mae Latican.

Latican and the UST fielders, after giving up a base due to an accidental pitch hitting Lovely Arago, held the NU batting scoreless in the first inning with two flyouts and a groundout. On the other end, Vailoces, after flyouts of the first two UST batters, gave up a single to Charm Oria. A flyout of Celestine Palma to second base ended the inning and left Oria stranded.

The Lady Bulldogs almost picked up their first run at the top of the second inning. A catching error by UST right fielder Shiela Perales gave Baby Gequillo second base. After a groundout of the next two NU batters, Gequillo was able to steal third base, while Carla Payapaya was walked to give NU the corners. Mae Latican was able to strikeout Clarifer Singh for last out to strand both runners.

NU managed to punch in the first run of the game at the top of the third inning. After a huge double by Lovely Arago to left field, UST Coach Sandy Barredo subbed out Latican for May Ann Antolihao. Next batter Kristine Acuna grounded out at second base for first out. Lyn Tulalian connected with a single that paved the way for an Arago run. Tulalian was unable to advance to third after a tag out by shortstop Lyra Gustilo for second out and a flyout of Gequillo ended the third inning with NU on top 1-0.

After a scoreless fourth inning, the NU Lady Bulldogs were able to pick up two more runs at the top of the fifth from costly UST errors. The softbelles from España gave up a catching error by first basewoman Louise Garde to give Arago first base. Then with one out, a single by Lyn Tulalian. Two costly consecutive errors by the UST defense, at shortstop and at third base, gave Arago and Tulalian runs to end the top half of the fifth.

At the bottom of the fifth, Rina Vailoces walked Louise Garde due to balls while Jessie Belano was hit by a pitch to give UST two bases. After a ground out of the next batter, Vailoces was momentarily substituted for Mia Macapagal just to give the rookie a breather. A failed fielder’s choice with Antolihao at bat gave UST a run and two bases. Two consecutive singles by Hannah Dela Torre and Kristine Lacupa led to runs by Belano and Antolihao respectively, to tie the game at 3-all. Vailoces returned at the mound soon after.

The sixth inning ended with both squads still tied.

To open up the seventh inning, injured NU Lady Bulldog Ghene Nietes, who hurt her hamstring during their do-or-die game against DLSU, made an appearance to pinch hit for Singh. Latican would strikeout Nietes while a flyout of Arago and a groundout of Acuna ended the top half of the last regulation inning.

Needing just one run to end the game, Ann Antolihao was walked due to balls. A single by Hannah Dela Torre gave UST two bases with no outs. A passed ball then followed, which gave UST prime real estate to score. Kristine Lacupa then connected with a clutch single that paved the way for an Antolihao run to seal the game.

The UST offense was led by the two runs of Antolihao and an RBI. On the defensive end, Antolihao anchored the defense as well in giving up just two runs, four hits and striking out three batters.

But it was the clutch performance by Kristine Lacupa that help extend that UST season. We asked her after the game on how the team overcame the early 3-0 deficit they faced. “Sinabi sa amin ni coach na kaya pa namin makahabol, kasi habang tumatagal mas napapagod pitcher nila,” Lacupa told us. “Kayang kaya namin si Mia [Macapagal] kasi napapaluan namin siya nun [elimination round],” when asked about the pitching change that occurred during the UST rally. When asked if she felt the pressure to connect at the last inning, “Walang pressure dahil gagawin ko ito para sa team. Nacheck ko na rin yung mga palo ng mga pitcher.”

The UST Softbelles next play the UP Lady Maroons on Friday, March 20 at 9am. The Lady Maroons will hold a twice-to-beat advantage. Game will be played at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.

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