MANILA put a fitting end to its amazing run to the Big League Softball World Series title by trouncing California, 14-2, in five innings on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time) in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Frustrated in three previous appearances in the final and faced with the prospect of not competing in the tournament at all this year due to lack of funds, the Manila softbelles finally became world champions with an emphatic victory over the West Region representatives.
Manila was determined not to repeat its losses in the title game in 2008, 2010 and 2011, completing its run to the title with a seven straight victory after beginning the tournament with two consecutive losses including a defeat to California in their second game.
It was the first Philippine team to win a World Series crown since Bacolod won the junior league softball crown in 2003.
The Manila softbelles got the needed spark from Rizza Bernardino, who slammed her fourth home run of the tournament in the four-run second inning that saw Manila open a 7-0 lead.
Bernardino, last season’s UAAP Athlete of the Year from Adamson, also pitched a complete game allowing only two runs and five hits to stop the California-based West team, the top seed of the tournament who finished with a 7-1 win-loss card.
Despite being the Asia-Pacific champions, Manila nearly didn’t make it to Kalamazoo due to lack of sponsors and even if they did, there was a possibility that only 11 players will be able to make the trip.
Eventually, enough sponsors came in to enable the team to send a complete squad.
The team, coached by Ana Santiago and Sandy Barredo, is made up of collegiate players from different universities in Manila. Bernardino, Michelle Lentija, Glesyl Opjer, Baby Jane Raro, Queeny Sabobo, Mary Jane Faballar and Andrea Gonzales are from Adamson, while Gene Joy Parilla is from University of the East.
Charmaine Joy Oria, Kristine Joy Lacupa and Maria Luna Amparo are from University of Santo Tomas while Mary Joy Floranza is the lone player from Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
With the bases full in the first inning, Lentija doubled to score Paguican from third base. Sabobo followed with a two-run single to advance Bernardino and Lentija home for a 3-0 lead.
Paguican sent home Floranza and Oria after both runners reached base on errors before Bernardino’s two-run home run in the second inning.
Manila Little League charter president Che Borromeo thanked former president Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Manila Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno, Congressman Amado Bagatsing, Philippine Sports Commission, PCSO, Megaworld, Martin Cojuangco, Pagcor and the Fil-Am community in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Chicago for the support.