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Ateneo grabs HK baseball crown again

10 January 2017

The Blue Eagles savor their victory after turning
the tide against Hong Kong Red in a very
tight match at the recent HK International Baseball Open.
Ateneo Blue Eagles outwitted defending champions Hong Kong Red, 7-6, in a tight duel over nine innings at Sai Tso Wan Field in Lamtin on Dec 20 to recapture the Hong Kong Baseball Open championship.

It was the second time that Blue Eagles ruled the annual slugfest organized by the Hong Kong Shanghai Alliance WSBC, repeating their performance in 2014 when the Ateneans crushed HK Red 6-1 and foiled its bid for the trophy.

“It was a close game, pretty much non-stop action throughout nine innings,” Blue Eagles head coach Randy Dizer said after the game. “Hong Kong really gave us a good game.”

HK Red, who won last year when the Filipinos skipped the tournament, promised to avenge that defeat on the eve of the showdown. “This is the side that beat us two years ago and we will be going for revenge for sure… I definitely think we have what it takes to beat them,” third baseman Matthew Holliday said.

The local sluggers, batting first as the away team, capitalized on their familiarity with the style of the Filipinos’ first pitcher Paulo Macasaet, a rookie on the National Team.

“Talagang napaghandaan nila si Paulo since siya ang dating pitcher nang masungkit ng Ateneo ang kampeonato noong 2014,” said Ynez Badajos, playing coach of Fate softball team and player of Philippine Sluggers, current Hong Kong women’s baseball champs.

Members of both women’s teams cheered the visiting varsity team as it hurdled three other local teams in the four matches they played since kick-off on Dec 17.

HK Red blanked Ateneo 4-0 in the first inning, but the Filipinos held the local boys scoreless in the second and stole a run at the bottom of the inning, 1-4.

The two teams battled neck and neck in the third and fourth, with both sides scoreless, then HK Red broke away again with two clean hits in the fifth, taking the score to 6-1.

Macasaet said he was done in the sixth and Dizer fielded in left-handed pitcher Angeles, a strategy shift that threw off HK Red’s momentum. The locals’ hits were off and their balls flew into the Filipinos’ clutches.

HK Red also changed pitchers twice in the sixth, but Ateneo struck back with Dino Altomonte batting in two runs to narrow the gap, 6-3.

In the seventh, Dizer unleashed his key men, including National Team player Ros Bernardo, who he kept in reserve for the championship game. Bernardo played short stop.

Ryan Hilario, Altomonte and Bernardo kept the bases loaded, but batter Rapho Balagtas hit a drop ball to centerfield that the umpire ruled as a caught ball. This nonetheless went in Blue Eagles’ favor as Hilario was tugged up so his run was counted, while Altomonte was out on second  base.

HK Red assumed there were three outs so they all walked to the bench. But Ateneo’s coaches clarified the situation and found out there were only two, with runner Bernardo still on first base.
Next batter Radito Banzon was awarded a walk as a base on ball, leaving Ateneo with two runners. Then Marco Mallari slammed the ball to the outfield, sending Bernardo and Banzon running home in succession to turn the tide for Blue Eagles, 7-6.

In the eighth, Dizer again replaced his pitcher, this time assigning Miguel Dumlao.

HK Red batters hit the pitcher’s balls, but these were easy to catch. Only Holliday drove a hard ball to short stop, but Bernardo halted it and threw it to first base.

Both teams ended the eighth inning scoreless. HK Red tried to score once more in the ninth with another hard ball to Bernardo, but a quick throw to first base dealt the Hongkongers their last out, and the Filipinos took the championship.

“I’m very proud of the team because while we fell behind early, the boys never gave up,” said Dizer, who also coaches the RP Blu Girls. “They believed in each other and never caved in.”

Altomonte was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Dizer the Best Coach, and Renzo Ramos had the Most Stolen Bases.

The Blue Eagles are staunch supporters of Philippine Sluggers. In 2016, they shipped a complete set of gear including uniforms, bats and balls to the self-financed team of domestic helpers.

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