The University of Santo Tomas Tiger Softbelles are peaking at the right time.
After ending the streak, the Tiger Softbelles will barge into the post-season holding a twice-to-beat advantage against the National University Lady Bulldogs after a 6-0 shutout in the tiebreaker match for second seed Saturday morning at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
“Importante talaga ito kasi parang Game One na rin ito,” Tiger Softbelles head coach Sandy Barredo said about the importance of this game. “We got this game and we need to get the game on Monday so we could prepare early for Adamson.”
Carrying the momentum they gained from the Adamson game, the Tiger Softbelles connected on three hits in the first two innings of the game that almost gave them the breakthrough run of the game. However, all three runners were left on base.
On the other end, the Lady Bulldogs almost picked up a run in the second inning of the game behind super rookie Aimee Watson. The Laguna-native connected on a double to open the inning. After an Ann Antolihao strikeout of next batter Charles Tulalian for first out, a sacrifice grounder by Kristine Acuna moved Watson to third base. Baby Gequillo though grounded out to first base that stranded Watson.
The offense finally delivered in the middle innings of the game. A single by lead-off batter Kristine Lacupa opened the inning and was able to steal second base with Hannah dela Torre at-bat. UST’s second basewoman then connected with a mid-flying double to center-left field that brought Lacupa home. A base hit by Celestine Palma followed that extended the rally. Moreover, it forced coach Egay delos Reyes to retire rookie Mary Ann Ramos on the mound for Mia Macapagal.
Macapagal and the NU defense were not able to hold the UST runners though. A sacrifice bunt by CJ Roa led to UST’s second run of the game. An RBI single by Louise Garde capped the three-run inning for the Espana-based batters.
After the top of UST’s batting order delivered in the prior inning, it was the bottom’s turn to churn in three more runs in the fourth. A triple by Jessie Belano opened the inning that forced NU to another pitching change as rookie Elsie dela Torre entered for Macapagal. Right off the bat, Lea Guevarra connected with a long fly to right field for another triple and an RBI. After Lacupa reached base due to balls, Dela Torre popped a double to center left field to bring home the two remaining runners for an imposing 6-0 lead.
“Sana magtuloy-tuloy ito,” Barredo said about the team’s hitting led by Dela Torre going 3 of 3 at-bat. She had a single and two doubles for a run and a whopping three RBIs.
With the offense delivering, Antolihao anchored the defense in striking out six batters in the game. The strikeouts were timely as two of the strikeouts were closeouts for the innings that stranded a total of five runners in the 4th and 6th innings. “Okay pa naman braso niya. Pinapakiramdaman ko nga siya pero sabi niya okay pa naman. So, with the help of those who block those things, na-rerelieve naman yung pain,” Barredo said about his ace pitcher who will most likely start again on Monday.
Gaining the twice-to-beat advantage, Barredo called for the team to take a complete rest tomorrow to keep them fresh for Monday. “Total rest for Sunday tapos yung Monday dun na yung warm-up. Later I will take the team to the CRS para relaxed sila for tomorrow,” he closed.
The UST Tiger Softbelles will have the twice-to-beat advantage against the NU Lady Bulldogs in the Final Four. Their semifinals series will start on Monday, March 7 at 11:00am.