Manila lasses Big League Softball World Series champs at lastBy Percy D. Della
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SACRAMENTO—With an Olympic-size effort that keeps the mind off of our pitiful showing at the London Games somewhat, the relentless Asia-Pacific squad, aka Manila softbelles, dominated the West Region team to win the Big League Softball World Series Wednesday (Thursday in the Philippines).
The Manila lasses went to town, pounding their rivals from Westchester, California, 14-2 in a nationally telecast championship game beamed by ESPN2 Sports from Wilson Field in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
With the five-inning victory, the Manilans coasted to their first ever Big League World Series title after runner up finishes in 2008, 2010 and 2011.
Rescued last year by a Philippine Daily Inquirer story that started the ball rolling for a fundraising effort that saved its trip to the Wolverine State then, the team barely made it to Kalamazoo again this year. It took the effort of Manila Councilor Rafael “Che” Borromeo to send the team to the World Series at the eleventh hour.
Manila’s scoring machine hammered out runs in every inning team, ringing 14 hits and building a 7-0 that blew the match wide open after only two innings.
After producing a run each in the third and fourth, the Philippine team scored five more in the fifth to build a 14-0 lead before their West Region rivals from the Los Angeles area managed three hits to get on the board and spoil Rizza Bernardino’s shutout bid.
The right-handed Bernardino is a team veteran who endured last year’s heartbreaking loss to Grand Rapids in the finals.
“The fourth time is the charm, Westchester manager Darryl Lee told ESPN2 after the game. “They (Manilans) lost the first two games and won seven in a row. They stayed hot all the way through.”
Manila manager Ana Santiago credited the team for its Job-like patience. “We finally won and have made history,” she said from Los Angeles where she, Borromeo and the sofbelles, mostly standouts at Adamson University are being feted by the school’s alumni based in the Southland.
“I’ve been rooting for the Manila lasses for three years,” Bud Vandenberg, Kalamazoo’s grand old man of sports told me by phone. “I am glad they have triumphed finally and I am real happy for my friend Ana,” said the 86-year-old community leader who was instrumental in making his city the official home of the Softball World Series.
Bud ran the tournament until this year, when he turned over the baton to Fred Welser who has been a volunteer since 1988 for the tournament that pits teams from the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.
“We thought it was going to be a close championship match, the first one in a long time that did not involve a Michigan team” Welser, a retired sales and marketing man told me. “But it turned out to be a knockout in the early going. Our Filipino friends are elated.”
With government funding a perennial problem, the Philippine team has relied on the generosity of supporters, including Kalamazoo’s Filipino American community whose members have housed and treated team members like family since the country started sending representatives to the Series a decade ago.
The ESPN2 telecast of Wednesday’s championship match, played in mild Mid-Atlantic weather, often zoomed in on a sizable gallery of Fil-Ams who were out to cheer the Manilans all the way through.
“The Fil-Ams of Kalamazoo have not only blessed us with their renowned hospitality and civic pride,” said Vandenberg. “They have enriched our sports loving character and our lives.”
Councilor Borromeo said he had gotten the support of former President Joseph Estrada, Vice President Jojo Binay, Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and other benefectors, to cover the check he wrote for the airline fare of the team to Michigan.
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