THE PHILIPPINE Habagat failed to sustain a strong start and fell to a formidable Japanese squad, 4-2, yesterday on the second day of the Pony League Baseball Asia Pacific Regional Qualifier at Rizal Memorial Baseball Park.
A string of errors in the second and third innings left the Habagat undone although they still made it to the semifinals of the six-nation tournament by placing second to the Japanese in Pool B on the strength of their 26-1 demolition of Russia Sunday.
Taiwan clinched top spot in Pool A after winning over Indonesia and Korea also Sunday. Korea prevailed over Indonesia, 12-0, yesterday to clinch the other semifinal spot in Pool A.
Habagat will go up against the Taiwanese while the Japanese take on the Koreans in today’s semifinals.
Marvin Trillana held the Japanese to just a couple of hits in a no-relief job, but the Habagat coughed up four errors that doomed their hopes of pulling off an upset.
The Habagat scored first at the bottom of the opening inning, but the Japanese cashed in on a couple of errors to tie the game in the next inning, before taking control in the third frame with a couple of runs again due to mistakes from the host squad.
A final inning assault produced only one run as the Habagat rally fizzled out.
“We paid dearly for our errors,” rued Habagat coach Mike Ochosa. “We gave away those runs. Hopefully, we fix it in the semifinals.”
“It’s definitely a tall order (in the semifinals), but if we can fix our defense, we will have a chance,” added Ochosa, whose team is seeking to become the first PH team to reach the World Series for the first time since going all the way to the crown in 1989.
The Filipinos quickly made their presence felt against the Japanese with Enzo Montemayor scoring after a sacrifice fly from Basil Taylo with one out.
But Rei Yamaguchi scored from third on a fielding error with one out as Japan tied the game at 1-all, before Daisuke Shimuka gave the visitors the go-ahead run after a poor pickoff throw from Trillana. Japan scored one more run thanks to Issei Shimokado, who reached home on a fielder’s choice.
A sacrifice bunt scored Yuta Agne in the fourth inning, extending the lead, 4-1.
Trillana hit a drive to left center, scoring Catignas but Lijauco was tagged out at third by Sohei Yaginamachi to end the game.
With Trillana unavailable, Stephen Delos Santos and Basil Taylo could start for the Habagat against Chinese Taipei.
The tournament is backed by McDonald’s, Purefoods, Gatorade, Magnolia Purewater, Nutrilite, Jamba Juice, Angel’s and Country Style Donuts.