Returning to their unofficial home ground, the Manila Sharks defeated the top-seeded Cebu Dolphins, 3-2, on Sunday to end their campaign in Baseball Philippines Series 9 on a winning note at the Rizal ballpark.
The Sharks finished the elimination round with a 9-6 record while ending the top-ranked Dolphins' five-game win streak after the rematch of last series’ finalists.
Manila, the three-time defending champion, also got a much-needed confidence boost ahead of the playoffs on Saturday, also to be played at the historic Rizal venue.
The Sharks are clearly at home playing at Rizal after playing seven weeks in other venues.
“It’s a good thing that we are back in Rizal,” said Manila coach Jhoel Palanog. “We are more comfortable here. We can establish once again our pitching and defensive philosophy.”
“We knew it was a no-bearing game pero we want to end the eliminations on a winning note. I wanted the boys to enjoy the game para mabalik ‘yung morale namin going into the semifinals.”
Starter Jayson Dimacutac and reliever Warren Vispo limited the Dolphins to seven hits in the game, including a solo home run by Cebu slugger Lorenzo Ubungen.
The Sharks, however, could not pull away as they left nine runners on base.
Meanwhile, Taguig beat Batangas, 6-3, in the first game to avoid the cellar-dweller tag. The Patriots finished their campaign with a 4-11 mark while the Bulls dropped to 3-12.
The Sharks face Dumaguete in the semifinals with the Uni-bikers holding a twice-to-beat advantage on June 24.
Cebu, with the twice-to-beat edge, plays Alabang Tigers in the other semifinal.
The Sharks began the fourth inning with a single by Jennald Pareja, who reached third on a double by Jarus Inobio and scored on a sacrifice fly by Paco Tantuico.
Inobio made it 2-0 after crossing home plate on a fielding error by Cebu.
Ubungen's homer in the sixth inning but the lead to one run but Manila found an answer as Francis Gesmundo, who doubled, scored on a single by Emerson Atilano for a 3-1 lead.
Cebu playing coach Isaac Bacarisas narrowed the gap to one run on a two-out base hit to score Ericson Atilano but Inobio caught Nico Uichico’s flyball to center field to end the Dolphins' threat.
In the third game, the Dumaguete Uni-bikers downed the Alabang Tigers, 14-5, to match the Dolphins' 11-4 win-loss record.
Cebu, however, will retain the No. 1 seed over Dumaguete after winning their season series, 2-1.