Heartbreak finally ends for 2 Bacolod softbellesBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LOS ANGELES—Michelle Lentija and Charmaine Joy Oria—stalwarts of newly minted Big League Softball World Series champions Manila—are no strangers to heartbreaks—even before the start of tournaments.
Twice, the two players endured the pain of not being able to compete in the World Series because of lack of funds and were informed about them only at the last minute.
There were close calls, too, when their teams only managed to leave for tournaments at the eleventh hour, showing up just a day before the opening and playing through jetlag.
“Of course, we would cry when we’re told that we couldn’t go (and compete),” Lentija, a Bacolod native, who started seeing action in the World Series at the Little League (11-12) level eight years ago, told the Inquirer here.
“It’s disappointing, but we always try to understand,” said Oria, who was a teammate of Lentija at the Education Training Center School in Bacolod, which has served as a breeding ground of future softball stars at the collegiate level.
These painful experiences have served as a motivation for Lentija, Oria and the rest of Team Manila, which finally ended a string of heartbreaks Thursday when they bagged the 16-18 division title in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The Manila softbelles opened their campaign with two straight losses, but rallied mightily to win six straight games and clinch their place in the title match, where they overpowered Westchester, California, 14-2.
Lentija was the best hitter of the tournament with a batting average just a shade under .700, while Oria proved solid as a catcher and also contributed crucial hits in the final.
With 12 World Series appearances between them, Lentija and Oria are two of the most experienced players in the squad of coach Ana Santiago.
Rizza Bernardino, last in the pitching order for Manila three years ago, was now first choice on the mound and her experience came in handy just like Lentija and Oria’s familiarity of opponents.
While Manila played in the finals three times in the last four years, Westchester was just making its first championship stint.
“We see some familiar faces so we know how some of them play,” said Oria, who like the rest of the delegation are in Los Angeles.