In the end, the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons, after all the injuries they have experienced this season, were more determined than ever to book the final ticket to the UAAP Season 78 Softball Final Four.
In an impressive outing, last season’s runners-up played excellently on both ends in an 8-1 abbreviated sixth inning win over the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles to gain the final spot in the playoffs and in doing so crush the playoff hopes of the De La Salle University Lady Batters and the University of the East Lady Warriors.
The Lady Maroons displayed excellent fielding, specifically the infield, that shut out the lady batters from Katipunan in the first four innings of the game. Moreover, Cochise Diolata was able to strike out two batters during that span, while only allowing one batter to reach base – a walk on Nicki Borromeo during the third inning.
On the other end, UP were able to gain the first run of the game in the third inning. After a flyout of first batter Maki Cabriana, MJ Abanes was able to gain base after an overthrow by Yla Trinidad. A flyout of Jhen Alinsod followed in the next possession to give Ateneo two outs. Lead-off batter Gelai Penales was able to bring home Abanes with a single to center field to give UP a 1-0 lead.
“We all thought that this was our last game na talaga,” UP center fielder Penales said. “Yun yung tinatak sa amin ni Gabin in our meetings. Our mindset was do-or-die na talaga.”
A costly move by UP catcher Maki Cabriana gave Ateneo the opportunity to tie the game during the top of the fifth inning. After one out, Cheska Imperial connected on a huge triple that gave the Lady Eagles prime scoring position. As Cabriana tried to pick-off Imperial in the next possession, indecision led to Imperial stealing home base that tied the game.
“Well kasi yung team namin is very diesel talaga. Kelangan kami ma-shake before we can get going,” Penales said about it. “I think it can be a good thing or a bad thing. Today, it worked na naghahabol kami.”
Just as Penales said, the UP offense went into full throttle in the bottom end of the same inning that broke the game wide open. A single by Cabriana opened the inning while a catching error by first basewoman Borromeo gave MJ Abanes base. A fielders choice attempt by the Ateneo defense knocked off Cabriana at third base but gave Jhen Alinsod base.
Penales’ second single of the game led to a run for Abanes. Trying to keep the play alive, Alinsod went for home base as well. A throw by shortstop Gabby Macatulad to catcher Imperial was not caught resulting to an Alinsod run.
The UP rally continued after a Kier Ferrer line drive to center field brought home Penales. A fielders choice attempt with Swing dela Cruz at bat resulted to another UP run and dela Cruz gaining base. The rally was capped with a passed ball that led to a dela Cruz run that gave UP an imposing 6-1 lead.
A demoralized Ateneo squad were easily knocked off in the sixth inning. At the bottom end of the inning, Alinsod and Penales provided the Diliman squad with the two runs needed to seal the game via mercy rule.
“I, personally, dedicated games to our seniors talaga,” Penales, who went 3 of 4 at bat for two runs and two RBIs, said. “Yun yung gusto ko iinstill sa mga rookies namin, to play each game like its your last, para sa seniors namin.”
Finally clinching a playoff spot, the UP junior just feels blessed after a string of injuries almost did not let them reach this point. “It feels great. It feels like a miracle. We’ve gone through so much. We lost a lot of players. And look at the scores, we had a lot of teams who helped us get here,” she said.
Moreover, the team now believes that Adamson can now be beaten after receiving their first loss in 73 games earlier in the day. “After the game earlier, it showed us that they are human. It gave us the mindset that we can break them and that we have a 50/50 chance as well against them.”
The UP Lady Maroons will face the Adamson Lady Falcons on Monday, March 7 at 9:00am. The top-seeded Lady Falcons will hold a twice-to-beat advantage over UP.
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