Monday morning, lightning struck twice for the University of Santo Tomas Tiger Softbelles.
After ending the streak to end the elimination round, the Espana-based softbelles were able to escape five-time defending champions, Adamson University Lady Falcons, for the second time this season. Moreover, with the loss, the Lady Falcons are now in unfamiliar territory in the UAAP: a do-or-die, winner-take-all game.
Just like in their second round game, the Tiger Softbelles were able to punch in the first runs of the game to go up 5-0 before the top of the sixth inning.
With their backs against the wall, the defending five-time champions started their comeback attempt with a solo homer coming from Season 78 MVP Queeny Sabobo. Gaining the momentum, Lamata followed this up with another big base hit, before Benjamen popped a sacrifice fly to center field to score the former. The vaunted Thomasian defense then denied the Adamson more runs and held on to a 5-2 lead going into the final inning, as ace pitcher Ann Antolihao took her usual place in the middle.
After holding down UST in the sixth inning, the Lady Falcons were able to make the tying run with two outs at the top of the final inning.
Game One heroine Krisna Paguican flied out to first basewoman Garde, Calumbres carved a base hit to left field. Antolihao then dealt with an Adorable fly ball for the second out. With Sabobo earning a homerun earlier, the defense allowed her to get on base on four balls, similar to what UST did when they ended The Streak. However, the strategy backfired, as Lamata fired off a cannon for a clutch two-out three-run homer to tie the game at 5-all.
However, errors by Adamson plagued them at the tail end of the inning. With two outs, Celestine Palma plucked a base hit into the right field to get on base. Kristine Lacupa was then subbed as pinch runner for Palma. Back-to-back Best Hitter awardee CJ Roa then took matters into her own hands, firing off a rolling grounder as Lacupa crossed the plate to the deafening cheers of the team and the UST faithful in attendance.
It was a roller-coaster of emotions for the Lady Falcons according to head coach Ana Santiago. “Alam mo yung biglang nabuhayan nung nag homerun tapos nakatabla kami,” she said. “E tapos ngayon, tignan natin pagkatapos nito. May isang game pa naman kaso do-or-die pa.”
She also lamented the fact that once again their offense came in late for the game. Even in connecting with eight hits in the game, the Lady Falcons had six runners left on base. “Masyadong late na lumabas yung offense. Yung depensa namin nag-eeror pa,” she said with regret. “Dapat hindi na yun umabot sa error ni Sabobo, sinabayan pa ng right field na hindi binato sa loob. Ganun talaga breaks of the game, wala kami magagawa.”
“Kami talaga ang nagkamali kaya kami natalo. Maganda yung depensa ng kalaban, kami hindi maganda. Madami talaga kaming mistakes.”
Looking forward to Game 3, Santiago emphasized the need to adjust the team’s offense. “Siguro yung hitting talaga. Maganda yun pinukol ni Garde at siya pa yung unang nagpa-iskor. Hitting talaga ang kelangan namin,” she stressed. “Hoping naman ako. Yung determination ang magdadala sa amin.”
“Wala ng atrasan yan, bigay na lahat ng dapat ibigay. Kung sino matapang yun ang mananalo.”
Game three of the UAAP Season 78 Softball Finals is set to take place on Friday, March 18 at the historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium. Will the Adamson Lady Falcons take home their sixth straight championship or will the UST Tiger Softbelles be the next queens of the diamond? Sound-off in the comments section.
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