By Ana Mae G. Roa
RELAYING miscues in the final touches of a must-win encounter weighed heavily on the UST Golden Sox’s back-to-back title drive as the Season 69 champions turned into victims of their own crime in a 3-5 Game 3 heartbreaker against last season’s bridesmaids Adamson University Falcons last March 2 at the Rizal Memorial Ballpark.
“We fell short on the defensive end,” assistant coach Sherwin Canlas told the Varsitarian. “The unnecessary errors in the endgame really hurt us.”
The Golden Sox uncharacteristically cluttered the field with defensive boners in the bottom of the eighth inning, resulting in two effortless Adamson runs by Falcon catcher Edward Landicho and left fielder Richard Siacor that suddenly melted UST’s precarious 3-2 seventh-inning lead.
Greenhorn standout Chun Wang Song’s double-to-right field in the ninth inning spelled redemption for the Season 69 title-holders’ cause but the San Marcelino-based squad’s tenacious guard blew UST’s struggle for a last-ditch comeback.
Early in the contest, Song drilled a booming homerun to the left wall, his fourth in the season, to set UST in motion even as left-fielder Loreto Manalo added another finisher off a double from ace hurler Jon-Jon Robles.
Adamson tied the count at two apiece courtesy of a Jenald Pareja run in the sixth inning but UST seized the upperhand, thanks to shortstop reliever Micheal Zapanta who scored a run in the next inning following two intentional walks from Korean sensation Song and Robles, who both registered homerun logs this season.
Despite a hard-luck match for UST, two-time MVP Robles, who played his final season this year, flashed another impressive pitching charge, retiring 11 Adamson batters.
Live for another day
It was when their backs were against the wall that the Golden Sox laid in their cards. Surprisingly, their aces came from a core of hardline relievers displaying sheer grit and exuberance.
With the series almost reaching its end in favor of the opposition, the Golden Sox tilted a 5-1 dearth, upstaging Adamson in an astounding seven-run upwelling in the homestretch, to notch an 8-5 Game 2 victory last February 29 and arrange a sudden-death Game 3 battle with the Falcons in the best-of-three finals date.
“It was the substitutes who performed well,” coach Jeffrey Santiago told the Varsitarian. “Their hits were right in time, just when they were needed.”
Trailing by 5-1 in the seventh inning, the Golden Sox dumped a lethargic start and soared in the pivotal eighth and ninth innings to mount an emphatic seven-run comeback that reinforced UST’s bid for a repeat of its Season 69 quest.
Pacing the tempo for UST in the eighth inning, second-baseman stand-in Julius Gerona decked a double-to-left field that steered catcher Ivan Gabay to the homeplate. Everyone in UST’s batting order stayed on track, racking up three more runs courtesy of Gerona, right-fielder Ace Baquiran, and shortstop reliever Zapanta to tie the contest at five-apiece.
The España-based batters gobbled up the marginal count in a ninth-inning, three-run surge fastened by first-baseman alternate Juhan Teves, Baquiran and Zapanta. Santiago’s wards then shut Adamson’s offensive forays in the bottom ninth to seal the outcome for UST.
Prior to UST’s series-equalizing Game 2 victory, the Golden Sox,, suffered a 3-6 beating from Adamson last February 27.
The Golden Sox did not go home empty-handed as they ruled the individual awards with Song notching the Rookie of the Year plum. He was also cited for Most Homeruns and Most Runs-Batted-In.
Graduating stalwart Israel Ona received the Best Hitter and Best Slugger awards while Robles snared another Best Pitcher diadem. Meanwhile, Adamson pitcher Romeo Jasmin was named Most Valuable Player while UP’s Robert Seno was cited for Most Stolen Bases.
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