Team Manila scores again, nears finals of 2011 Big League
Team Manila sustained its superb hitting and defense, bringing down powerhouse and host Kalamazoo, 10-1, Monday to move within a victory of clinching a spot in the finals of the 2011 Big League (16-18) World Series in Michigan.
Michelle Lentija blasted her fourth home run in the tournament with her two-run shot, sparking the Manila softbelles’ drive in the opening frame, before Annalie Benjamen capped the rout with another two-run homer in the last inning.
Nursing a 3-1 lead, the Manilans exploded for seven runs in the final inning in an emphatic finish to what was expected to be a tight duel between teams picked to reach the finals of the prestigious 10-team tournament.
With the victory, Manila, representing the Asia-Pacific region, moved to the top with a 6-1 record while pinning a first loss on the host squad, which fell to second with a 5-1 slate.
Nipped by US Southeast squad Florida, 5-6, in a controversial match Friday, Manila wasted little time flashing its mean form with Veronica Belleza back in the mound.
Belleza, who leads all pitchers with an earned-run average of 0.74, went all the way, striking out eight batters and giving up just five hits.
“I think the loss was a blessing in disguise because it woke the girls up,” Santiago told the Inquirer in an overseas call. “We considered the game against Kalamazoo as our first game again. The girls are more motivated now.”
Santiago, who shares the coaching chores with Randy Dizer, said they called on tournament organizers to “be fair,” after Manila’s hurlers were penalized by officials for throwing illegal pitches at crucial moments against Florida.
“We traveled so far to get here and the last thing we wanted is to lose off the field,” said Santiago. “We just want the umpires to be fair.”
“We really want to win this for the country,” said Dizer.
The Manila girls face Delaware on Monday.
The As-Pac champions’ campaign is backed by Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and the City Council, Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines head Jean Henri Lhuiller, PSC commissioner Jolly Gomez, Edwin Galvez, Harbour Centre CEO Mikee Romero, Raffy Garcia, Doy Nucum, Jojie Almeda, Smart Sports, Maynilad, Allied Bank and Filipino Masons of Illinois.
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