After faltering last Saturday that would have sealed a Final Four berth, the National University Lady Bulldogs showed the skills that catapulted them to solo second after the first round.
Needing to pull off a win against opening game tormentors University of the Philippines Lady Maroons, the Lady Bulldogs got the victory in style, blasting their opponents, 8-1, in an abbreviated six-inning game, Monday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
All of that started on the mound with fourth-year pitcher Mary Ann Ramos.
Notorious for her down balls, the senior Lady Bulldog made the UP batters work for every pitch, resulting in easy putouts that retired the three batters she faced in the opening inning.
NU put in the same work in their offensive side of the first frame. Elsie Dela Torre started it off a with a hit down the right side of the outfield, which was followed by Leila Tarroza delivery to the same side to get a runner on second base. A sacrifice fly off Pearly Lorca to left fielder Nitchie Rabe was enough to see Dela Torre break the deadlock, 1-0.
The same batters set up the third-inning scoring binge that defined the game – at least on the offensive side – for the Lady Bulldogs. Dela Torre sent a ball near the third-base foul line that Juliet Omul could not control, giving the senior National U standout the first base. Tarroza then used the no-out situation and sacrificed both her at-bat and the hit to advance Dela Torre in scoring position. After, Ramos plucked her first hit of the game, a double, to double the lead with a Dela Torre run.
That forced UP head coach Ron Pagkaliwagan to retire his ace pitcher Cochise Diolata and sent in Panjie Legaspi.
The change didn’t bother the Lady Bulldogs, however, as they added another run, with Ramos tallying her own off a Rhea Gonzales single. Christy Arribas was then hit by a pitch, but the Maroons stopped the bleeding with a force out on Marie Banatao on second base.
The lead was not enough for National U. But with their offense clicking, they pushed the advantage and even threatened to put an abrupt end to the game in the fifth inning. They had a prime opportunity after Lorca punched in two-base hit after Tarroza scored two with Ritchie Dabbay and Nicole Ordoyo. Only Omul made amends and got the final out on Ramos off a throw to first baseman Johy Bernabe.
After getting a lease on life on defense, the Maroons finally broke through Ramos’ guard in the top of the sixth. Grace Adajar drove in a single to deep center, before Omul finally connected on a single of her own. Adajar then advanced all the way home off an error from first baseman Banatao to put UP on the board.
Nonetheless, it was Ramos’ day, as she eventually ended the game on her own terms.
After being taken out of the circle and transferred to the second base, the versatile Lady Bulldog perfectly timed a pitch off sophomore Legaspi. She sent it past the returning Gayle Suelto and out through the fences to bag the needed two runs for National U to extend their season and force another do-or-die match on Thursday.
Ramos finished the game with 5 2/3 innings pitched while allowing just five hits on 22 at-bats, taking down four batters in the process. The all-around player also made her mark on offense on two hits in four at-bats, getting two teammates to score on her two-run homer that clinched the game.
“Ang sabi ko lang sa kanila, laruin lang nila yung laro nila. Para kahit anong mangyari, manalo matalo, walang sisihan,” head coach Sid Abello told his wards prior to this crucial match.
The newly-installed mentor is optimistic of their chances of getting that last semifinals berth. He shared, “Kung ano lang yung ginawa namin, ulitin lang namin, or kung kaya, mas higitan pa.”
The Lady Bulldogs and Fighting Maroons will square off for the final time this season for the right to face the defending champions Adamson University on Thursday, March 21.