The Philippines earned another berth to World Series as its Senior League Baseball team edged Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in a thrilling seven-inning titular duel, 7-6, to cop the Asia-Pacific and Middle East diadem on Sunday at the close of the 15-nation tournament.
Cheered on by a big-sized crowd, the Filipino batters showed nerves of steel in their last at bat, filling in the bases against a fading CNMI pitching staff then unloading the marginal run off an RBI (run-batted-in) by Ponz Balagtas to clinch the regional crown and book a trip to the Senior League World Series slated August 11 to 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 the qualification of the Philippine 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 PHL IX, which seized a 4-0 lead in the first inning, then surrendered six runs in the three frames to fall behind by two, and patiently worked their way back into the game.
“It’s like a tele-serye, 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 diviosions.
Boo Barandiaran started things off for 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.
The Taiwanese hacked out a 10-1 drubbing of PHL representative Muntinlupa to cop the Big League diadem via sweep of the competitions while their Junior Leaguers ruled their division at the expense of finals rival Hong Kong, 10-0.