The final day of elimination round could not get any more thrilling.
The University of the East Lady Warriors, behind UAAP Season 76 rookie of the year Roxzell Niloban, blasted a three-run seventh inning to escape the De La Salle University Lady Batters, 3-1, to keep their playoff hopes alive Wednesday morning at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
“Sabi ko sa kanila hindi kayo puwede magpatalo sa team na yan. Natalo niyo sila nung first round,” first year head coach Edcel Bacarisas said about what he told his team prior to the game.
The Red-and-White were able to connect against Jamica Arribas during the first six innings of the game. However, even in gaining prime scoring positions in the second and third innings, the UE batters were not able to support their runners leaving them stranded.
On the other end, UE pitcher Lovely Joy Redaja and the UE outfielders were able to limit the Lady Batters to just a single hit in the first five innings of the game. The UE sophomore pitcher was able to strikeout five batters during that span. Moreover, the outfield, led by left fielder Kathleen Soliven, was able to flyout six batters.
“Yung pitcher namin maganda pinukol,” Bararisas said about Redaja’s performance.
After connecting on their first hit at the bottom of the fifth inning, the Lady Batters rode from the momentum they gained into the sixth inning. After a flyout of the first two batters, Marivic Munoz and Judy Macatangay connected on back to back singles to try to salvage the inning. Catcher Jen Gomez then connected with a grounder to third base and was easily caught by Michelle Mercado. The Mercado throw to first basewoman Princess Huesca resulting to a run for Munoz. The two runners were left stranded after a flyout of Arribas.
With their backs against the wall, the UE Lady Warriors attempted one last hijack to at least save their season. “May kulang talaga sa drive manalo yung mga bata nung una. Ngayon, Kelangan niyo na ilabas lahat diyan. Lahat ng ginagawa niyo sa training ibuhos niyo na diyan,” Bacarisas said.
With one out, an error by La Salle’s third basewoman Hya Abanilla resulted to Lourdes Blanco gaining base. A single by Mercado gave UE two bases with no outs. Needing her more than ever, UE’s missing link for the season Rox Niloban blasted a huge triple to center field at just the second pitch to bring home Blanco and Mercado to put her team up 2-1.
After a flyout of the next batter for two outs, a walk of Redaja again gave UE two bases once more. Another error by Hya Abanilla after resulted to a run for Niloban to close out the inning.
Needing two runs to seal the game, the bottom of the batting order needed to step up for La Salle. A flyout of Pat Belarmino opened the inning while back to back singles by Vanessa Borbon and Lalaine Cunanan. The bases then loaded for La Salle after Arisa Miranda was hit by a pitch. However, a strikeout of Abanilla and a flyout of Munoz stranded all three runners and sealed the game for UE.
Niloban was three of four at bat during the game. She had two singles and a triple that led to a run and two RBIs.
“Dapat lang [nag-step up si Niloban] kasi do-or-die na ito. Last year, target namin fourth to third. Pero ganun nangyari, bilog yung bola. Panalo kami sa UST, nagpatalo pa kami. Ganun din sa UP,” a stressed Bacarisas said. “Na-motivate naman siguro sila at, sa awa ng Diyos, lumabas naman yung palo nila ng kaunti.”
Waiting for the result of the Ateneo-UP tilt, Bacarisas and the Lady Warriors are just hoping for the best. “We’re just hoping for the best. If matalo UP, my tiebreaker game pa sa Sabado.”
If UP wins their game against Ateneo, UE will finish fifth in the tournament while La Salle will end up at sixth. A UP loss though would tie La Salle, UP, and UE in the standings and a series of tiebreaker matches will start on Saturday, March 5.
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