HEMET, CALIFORNIA: Team Manila–Philippines showed its true form and class as it beat 2016 defending champion Central Hemet Xplozion, 7 – 1, to win the 2017 PONY International 18-U Girls Softball World Series crown, the first-ever by the Philippines or Asia, at the packed out Diamond Valley Park in the Valley-Wide Recreation District here.
Standout pitcher Alma Tauli, the 16-year old native of Norzagaray. Bulacan and daughter of a retired security guard and a housekeeper, pummeled the defending champions and capped her dazzling performance with five strikeouts and six no run innings that had the Californians winded and awed.
The Big City Softbelles’ scoring assault started at the top of the first inning with centerfield Christine Bautista and designated player Shaina Camacho scoring two runs off an RBI by right fielder Khrisha Cantor to complete a two-run hit play.
But it was short stop Nichole Padasas, the 18-year old veteran from Adamson and member of Team Manila-Philippines to the 2015 Big League World Series, who silenced the host crowd after blasting a huge homerun, her second homer in the Series, to put Team Manila ahead, 3 – 0 at the top of the second inning.
At the top of the fourth, Bautista hit another big homerun and was followed by an impressive three–run hit play by Cantor, the 18-year old student of Adamson and daughter of a farmer and teacher from Ivana, Batanes, which gave Bautista, Camacho and third baseman Madaelene Dumaog runs each to give the Manila Batters, backed by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), with support from Mike and Lilli Khan and Larry Sy of Sunspring, a commanding 6 – 0 lead.
The defending champions came back strong at the bottom of the fourth with a big homerun of their own, but pitcher Alma Tauli was quick to respond and delivered a stinging blow to the Xplozion’s surge with a couple of strike outs and a number of fine defensive stops by the Softbelles up to the end of the seventh to hose down a fiery comeback by the Xplozion, who also made excellent defensive plays to close the game at 7 – 1.
“The girls deserve the win because we were able to keep our composure and were not intimidated by the defending champions so our errors were limited,” said head coach Ana Santiago.
According to Manila Softball President Rafael “Che” Borromeo, Team Manila is being invited by the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles and said, “We express our heartfelt thanks to the Filipino community in South California for their support and hospitality, and also to Mayor Joseph Estrada and the ICTSI for their untiring support.”
Rodolfo Tingzon Sr., founder of PONY in the Philippines and Boy Tingzon, the current PONY Director for Asia Pacific, said that Team Manila has made history by winning the 2017 PONY World Series Championship for the first time ever not only for the Philippines but for Asia.
The Big City Softbelles also won the crown in the 2012 Big League 18-U World Series for the first time in history and were voted as the 2012 Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Athletes of the Year.