THE Philippines earned another berth to the World Series as its Senior League Baseball team edged CNMI in a thrilling seven-inning titular duel, 7-6, to cop the Asia-Pacific and Middle East diadem on Sunday at the Clark Freeport Zone Parade Grounds.
Cheered on by a big-sized crowd, the Filipino batters showed nerves of steel in their last at bat, filling the bases against a fading CNMI pitching staff then unloading the marginal run off an RBI by Ponz Balagtas to clinch the regional crown and book a trip to the Senior League World Series slated August 11-17 in Bangor, Maine.
Represented by the International Little League Association of Manila (ILLAM), the Pinoy Senior Leaguers became the fifth team from the host nation to march into the World Series, following in the footsteps of Phl's softball bets in Little League (Iloilo), Junior League (Iloilo), Senior League (Laguna) and Big League (defending world titlist Manila) divisions.
It was a roller-coaster ride for the hosts, whoseized a 4-0 lead in the first inning, then surrendered six runs in the three frames to fall behind by two, before patiently working their way back into the game.
“It's like a teleserye, you're ahead one time only to find yourself behind the next and we really had to gut it out. Credit to these guys, they never gave up,” said Phl team manager Arsenic Laurel, whose wards finally made it to the World Series after four fruitless tries in the lower divisions.
Boo Barandiaran started things off for the host with a single to right. Tony Ozaeta followed it up with his own base hit, putting Barandiaran into scoring position. CNMI's third pitcher Darjon Jones then issued a walk to Miguel Habana, loading the bases. Balagtas hit a ground ball, clearing the way for pinch runner Rafael Esguerra to slide home for the win.
Fancied foreign teams, led by Chinese Taipei, dominated action in other fronts in baseball in the weeklong event sponsored by Clark Devopment Corp, Philippine Sports Commission and KFC.