Entering the Final Four, coach Sandy Barredo and the University of Santo Tomas Tiger Softbelles exuded confidence not usually seen in a team trying to overcome a twice-to-beat disadvantage. And once the bell rang to signal the start of the game, last season’s silver medalists showed why they’ve taken their situation in stride.
Behind another masterclass showing from ace pitcher Ann Antolihao and a breakout game from Bianca Hernandez, the Tiger Softbelles disarmed the second-seeded National University Lady Bulldogs, 2-0, to force a deciding Game Two, Saturday morning at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium in the city of Manila.
The do-or-die game will be played on Monday, March 13, at 9:00am.
Antolihao, a UST senior, pitched all seven innings of the game. She allowed just two hits in the entire game while striking out eight batters.
“Hindi pa raw masakit braso niya. So warm-up pa lang yan, kaya pa daw niya sa Lunes,” Barredo said about the RP Blu Girls pitcher. “Lahat ng magiging result diyan, naka-depende yan kay Antolihao. Kung madadala niya ulit yung team, mananalo.”
Antolihao’s precise pitching led to their connections going directly to the right for easy ground outs. And it is that advantage that will lead them to the Finals, according to Barredo.
“Ang pinaka weakness nila ay yung pag palo ng outside corner. For all the players, yan ang pinakamahirap paluin which is na-cocontrol pa ni Antolihao. Mahirap talaga tamaan,” the UST lifer added, as the farthest NU’s runners reached was reach third base during the first inning.
“Kung tatamaan man taplis lang at naabangan sa right field. So, sorry for them, lalo na dun sa aking former teammate na si coach Egay [delos Reyes], hindi nila napaghandaan yun.”
On the other end, the UST offense came alive during the fifth inning after going hitless against Mia Macapagal during the first four innings. CJ Roa opened the inning with a base hit but was knocked off due to a fielders choice during Shiela Perales’ at bat. A single by Lyra Gustilo followed.
With just one out, designated player Bianca Hernandez, a slugger who Barredo has raved about despite her struggles, connected on a huge double to left field that brought home the two runners.
Gustilo went 2-of-3 at bat as well.
Entering Game Two, Barredo said that he will do no extra drills for the team during the one-day break.
“Natural lang. Laro lang wala na,” he added.