Tigers, Sharks upend rivals, keep BP-9 finals hope aliveBy Marc Anthony Reyes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
THREE-TIME defending champion Manila and Alabang nullified their respective foes’ twice-to-beat advantage yesterday to keep their finals hopes alive in the Baseball Philippines Series 9 at Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
The Tigers displayed all-around brilliance in turning back the Cebu Dolphins, 9-6, while the Sharks showcased the stuff that made them champions the past three seasons when they drubbed the Dumaguete Unibikers, 6-1.
With the momentum on their side, the Sharks and the Tigers go up against the eliminations topnotchers again on Sunday to decide which teams make the best-of-three championship series.
Carlos Muñoz allowed just four hits, struck out four batters and walked four in seven innings for Alabang. Carlos Laurel relieved him in the eight inning and yeilded two hits and one walk.
Cebu groped for form in the absence of injured ace Joseph Orillana, whose replacement, Lorenzo Ubungen, pitched for 5 2/3 innings and gave up nine hits and two walks.
Manila unloaded four runs in the fourth inning anchored on Kelly Culubong’s two-run shot, to surge ahead, 4-1.
Dumaguete tried to stop the bleeding when it fielded in Fil-Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Horibata to no avail.
“The boys stepped up to the challenge,” said Manila team manager Joehl Palanog. “Our defense worked well.”
Palanog singled out neophyte pitcher Tawi Delos Reyes who held his ground with just one hit and struck out two in 3 1/3 innings. Starter Warren Vispo was rested, while Jayson Dimacutac, who stepped for Delos Reyes, yielded six hits.
Horibata got a lot on his plate and surrendered seven hits and two walks, while fanning five batters. Plaza allowed three hits and three walks.
“We want to get back at Dumaguete because they beat us twice in the playoffs before,” said Palanog, referring to their match-up Series 4 when the Unibikers overturned the Sharks’ twice-to-beat edge to make the finals.
The Sharks face a mountain to climb on Sunday, though, as youngster Mark Ong, Francis Gesmundo and Culubong will miss the game. Ong is leaving for the United States to continue his studies, while Gesmundo and Culubong will fly to China to play in the pro league there.
Mike Gante slammed a run-scoring double in the bottom of the fourth.
Dumaguete had few opportunities to score. In the bottom fifth, the Unibikers loaded the bases only to get stranded as John Conge was put out on a 6-3 play.
In the bottom eighth, Gante reached third with two outs but Arvin Plaza’s grounder went straight to the mitts of the first baseman to defuse the attack.
MANILA—000 410 100—6 10 3
DUMAGUETE—000 100 000—1 7 5
ALABANG—300 021 201—9 14 1
CEBU—200 010 102—6 6 3