EVEN in the absence of key players, Manila and Alabang try to finish off what they started as they attempt to arrange a finals match-up Sunday in Baseball Philippines Series 9 at the Rizal ballpark.
The three-time defending champion Sharks face the second-seed Dumaguete Uni-bikers at 1 p.m. while the Tigers go up against the first placer Cebu Dolphins at 9 a.m. a week after stunning their fancied rivals to forge a pair of do-or-die matches.
Dumaguete and Cebu entered the semifinals holding twice-to-beat advantages. The Sharks defeated the Uni-bikers, 6-1, while the Tigers downed the Dolphins, 9-6, in their last outings.
Manila and Alabang, however, will be shorthanded for the rubber matches.
The Sharks will miss the services of Mark Ong (academics), Francis Gesmundo (China training under a Major League Baseball program) and Kelly Culubong (coaching a little league tournament abroad) -- all of whom played crucial roles in their victories last week.
“It’s going to be a big adjustment on our part,” said Manila coach Jhoel Palanog. “It’s going to be a team effort for us in Game Two. We just need to emphasize our pitching and defensive philosophy.”
The Tigers, on the other hand, will not be able to field their ace pitcher Carlos Munoz on the mound after exceeding the maximum allowable pitch count during the first game of the series.
But Alabang coach Jeffrey Santiago seems unperturbed after gaining another shot at the finals.
“Iniisip ko munang makalusot sa Game One, saka ko na inisip ‘yung next game kaya sinunog (pitch in the game for a long period) ko na si Munoz. Mayroon pa naman kaming mga pitchers na pwedeng pumukol sa amin,” said Santiago.
A win by Manila will take the Sharks to their fifth consecutive finals appearance. Alabang, meanwhile, will be going for its second championship appearance after winning the inaugural series of the league under the name Makati Mariners in 2007.