With her and her teammates’ collegiate careers on the line, Hannah Dela Torre saved another one for the University of Santo Tomas Tiger Softbelles.
The graduating big-time hitter and the rest of the Softbelles of España got the better of a slugfest against the second-seeded De La Salle University Lady Batters, 13-6, to extend their season and force a do-or-die battle for a Finals berth, Saturday afternoon at the searing Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
Under the heat of the summer sun, UST found their hot-hitting against two of La Salle’s best pitchers in history. And it was the experience of the seniors that lifted the Tigresses to the semifinals win.
Dela Torre set the tone for the Tigresses after a scoreless first inning from both sides. The fifth-year second baseman blasted Kiana Juan’s 1-2 pitch to the center fencing to score three runs, bringing with her Dezza Barredo home for the 3-0 lead. Lealyn Guevarra replicated her fellow senior’s big hit and plucked another homer at the same inning to score both Mharnie Dela Cruz and Tin Palma with her.
UST plucked another run in the following inning to put the Tigresses up five, 7-2, after La Salle scored two in their turn at bat in the second frame.
But the Lady Green Batters would not give up the fight easily, as rookie pitcher Kiana Juan canceled out Guevarra’s three-run dinger in the fourth inning. The La Sallian frosh drove the ball past the right field as Gladelyn Alipato and Lalaine Cunanan met the former at the plate for the 5-7 margin.
Dela Cruz would have enough of the La Salle fight as she plucked another multiple-run RBI, a two-run scoring hit this time, to instigate the Tigresses’ last growl onslaught in the fifth frame that scored Belano and Santiago. Charlotte Sales then finally broke a bat with a double to send her seniors Dela Torre and Dela Cruz home. All of this happened with two outs on the board for UST.
That De La Torre homer in the onset proved to be the main difference for the black-shirts as they lived to fight another day. Dela Cruz also showed up with a spectacular 4-of-5 batting rate, scoring two teammates and getting in two runs herself. The offense made it easy for the entire Thomasian bullpen which allowed La Salle six runs off six hits.
Head coach Sandy Barredo praised his seniors and quipped, “Gusto pa nilang maglaro eh. Actually, binibigay ko na nga sa La Salle eh. Gusto ko ng mag-pahinga. Ayaw ko ng bumalik sa second game. Kung mag-second sila, mag-third tayo, two points lang ang diperensya niyan. Ano pa bang hahabulin?
“Eh gusto nilang maglaro; eh di lumabas yung laro. Yun ang malalaman natin sa Monday kung gusto talaga nilang lumaban sa chamionship. Ibang usapan na ‘yun.”
The Lady Green Batters and the Softbelles lock horns once more on Monday, March 25 at 10 a.m. for the right to face the defending champions Adamson University in the best-of-three Finals series. Game 1 of the championship battle is slated on Friday of the same week, March 29 at 9 a.m.