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Podium finish or bust for Blu Girls

Nothing less than a podium finish will do for the Philippine Blu Girls, who swing into action in the 2018 Asian Games softball tournament at the Gelora Bung Karno softball field on Sunday.

“We don’t want to match our fourth-place finish the last time. We are aiming for a podium finish,” Blu Girls coach Randy Dizer said.

The Blu Girls open their campaign in the one-round, seven-team eliminations against Hong Kong at Gelora Bung Karno softball field at 9:00pm Manila time.

A former national softball standout, Dizer’s confidence in the Blu Girls rests on their runner-up finish in last year’s Asian women’s softball championships held in Taiwan, behind champion Japan.

Except for Japan, the Filipina sluggers have previously beaten all of the same opponents they will face here, including a 17-0 rout of their Hong Kong rivals, before absorbing a 0-7 beating at the hands of the powerhouse Japanese in the finals.

“We have been together for some time so we have a chance of winning medal in this Asian Games,” said skipper-catcher Cheska Altamonte. “Yes, I think we have a chance of a podium finish.”

Filipino-American shortstop Garie Blando, who has been with the squad since 2014, echoed Altamonte’s sentiments.

“I believe we’ve been together for a longer time now so we have a better team since our last Asian Games. We are really hoping to win a medal here,” Blando added.

Dizer said that one of their advantages is their deep bullpen, led by Ann Antolihao, together with Sierra Lange, Lyca Basa, Mia Macapagal, and Ezra Jalandoni.

“Medyo malalim ang bullpen natin. It is the hitting that we have to improve on,” noted Dizer after the Blu Girls’ one and only overseas trip to the recent world championships in Chiba, Japan, where they finished in 14th place.

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The coach said that the absence of Fil-Am sluggers Dani Gilmore and Kailee Cuico left a huge hole in their offense, but sluggers like Hailey Decker, Arianne Vallestero, CJ Roa, and Altomonte are ready to step up.

After Sunday’s match, the Blu Girls will have a double header on Monday, tackling South Korea at 4:00pm then China five hours later.

They face reigning Asian Games softball champion Japan on Tuesday,before wrapping up their elimination-round campaign against Chinese-Taipei on Wednesday.

“We promised our boss Jean Henri [Lhullier] that we will have a podium finish and we will have a podium finish,” Dizer vowed.

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