The RP Blu Girls have advanced to the XVII WBSC Women’s Softball World Cup Group C playoffs with a pair of clutch wins over New Zealand and the host, world no. 8 Italy, at the Campo Comunale da Softball in Castions di Strada.
Ranked no. 26, the Philippines had dropped its first three pool games before beating world no. 29 New Zealand on Wednesday midnight, 5-3.
An hour later, the Blu Girls marched back onto the field to resume their match with Italy, which had been suspended the day before due to bad weather conditions, with the score tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Needing a win to stay alive, the Philippines gathered all their might to stun the Italians in a walk-off fashion, winning 6-5.
In the bottom of the seventh frame, with Italy ahead 5-4, MJ Maguad and Nicole Hammoude reached bases with a single and a walk, respectively.
Alaiza Talisik then stepped up to the plate and hit another single, followed by a crucial throwing error by Italy’s second baseman, Andrea Filler, that allowed Maguad to score from second, tying the game at 5-5. The error also put Talisik and Hammoude in scoring position.
With just one out and two runners in scoring position, Italy’s head coach, Federico Pizzolini, decided to intentionally walk Blu Girls’ first baseman, Elsie Dela Torre, loading the bases but giving them a chance for a double play.
In the ensuing play, Angelu Gabriel hit a grounder straight to pitcher Christina Toniolo, but Toniolo couldn’t throw it in time to catcher Marta Gasparotto as Hammoude slid for the game-winner.
With the shocking victory over Italy, the Philippines finished fourth with a 2-3 win-loss record and will face the host once again in the third-place playoff later at 8 p.m.
To advance to the Final Stage, which will be held next year, the Blu Girls need to beat Italy first and then defeat the loser of the Japan-Canada showdown in the repechage.
Hammoude started her day right with a booming over-the-fence home run, the Philippines’ first in this tournament, to left field against New Zealand in the first inning.
Angelu Gabriel then provided the other three runs-batted-in, while Kikay Palma held the Blu Girls’ lead for good in the final four frames.
Against Italy, Hammoude was a perfect 3-of-3 at-bat, including two RBIs.
Palma also secured her second win in a row with a two-hit masterclass in the final three innings, holding Italy to just a single run.
The University of Santo Tomas standout now has an earned run average (ERA) of 1.40, the second-best in the group.