A RUSSIAN squad that endured unexpected travel woes before reaching Manila got a rude welcome from the Philippine Habagat at the start of the Pony League Asia Pacific Regional Qualifiers yesterday.
The Filipinos scored a 26-1 regulation blowout over the travel-weary Russians to kickstart their campaign in style at Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
Led by Marvin Trillana, the Habagat, hoping to give the country its first title in this competition since 1989, unleashed 10 runs in the second inning to put the Russians away.
The University of Santo Tomas seventh grader delivered a two-run inside-the-park home run to set off the offensive burst for the Habagat, who assured themselves of a berth in the semifinals tomorrow.
The 21-man Russian delegation almost did not make it to Manila after a 24-hour ordeal in Hong Kong where the Russians were allegedly held by the government and airline Cathay Pacific for lack of documents.
“It was really tiring and frustrating for the whole team that they almost decide to fly back home in Russia,” said Marian Regina Calimosa, the Russian team interpreter.
Russian coach Vladimir Beliaev had asked for compensation from Cathay Pacific for the hotel and transportation expenses incurred by the team in HK because of the delay. Instead, the airline gave them tickets to Manila and they arrived Saturday night.
“The team was supposed to arrive two days before but because of the delay, they just didn’t get enough rest for this game,” added Calimosa.
Trillana was also brilliant on the mound, striking out two hitters and allowing just one run in the first two innings. Russia’s lone run in the game came courtesy of Igor Sheherbarov.
Habagat coach Mike Ochosa said Japan should pose a tougher challenge for his squad, hinting that he might field in three or four pitchers starting with Stephen delos Santos and Basil Taylo.
Also winning on opening day was Taiwan, which blanked Indonesia, 20-0.