by Reuben Terrado
Batangas and Manila will figure in a title showdown for the Dunkin’ Donuts Baseball Philippines Series 7 crown which starts on December 11.
Quite fitting since the Bulls and the Sharks have been taking turns for the title in the two previous series.
In Series 5, the Bulls captured their second title at the expense of Manila but the Sharks came roaring back and win the Series 6 crown, their first in the league.
It was July of last year that the Batangas Bulls showed their domination in Series 5 that culminated with their second title at the expense of the Manila Sharks.
The Bulls stamped their dominance in the series sweeping the best-of-three championship series by defeating the Sharks, 12-2, in Game 2 at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
Vladymir Eguia kept the Manila batters at bay allowing just five hits in a complete game to be adjudged as the Finals Most Valuable Player.
That was the Bulls second title after ruling Series 3 with a win over the Dumaguete Unibikers in their title series.
It was a series to remember for the Bulls, owned by Norman Macasaet, after finishing the series with a 13-1 win-loss record including a sweep of all their 10 games of the elimination round.
Aside from Eguia, Batangas got support from Romeo Jasmin on the mound all series long giving the Bulls a 1-2 punch in the pitching staff. A Most Valuable Player and Best Pitcher awardee in the UAAP, Jasmin was acquired from the Alabang Tigers and quickly made an impact in the series. He was eventually named the MVP of the regular season.
But in Series 6, it was the turn of the Sharks to take the crown.
Led by Jon Jon Robles, the long wait for Manila ended when the Sharks won their very first title in the league defeating the Cebu Dolphins, 2-1, in Game 3 last July at the Felino Marcelino Baseball Stadium.
In Game 1, Robles, who prior to the series played pro baseball in Czech Republic, allowed just a hit to open up the series before the Dolphins forced Game 2 with a 10-9 victory.
But the Sharks won’t allow their season to waste as Robles struck out 10 batters in the do-or-die battle. Nino Tator, meanwhile, gave the much-needed runs in this pulsating game serving up three doubles including the go-ahead RBI in the fifth inning to beat the Dolphins.
Robles was eventually named the Finals Most Valuable Player for his sterling performance in the finals series.
It was a sweet title indeed for the Manila Sharks.
The Harbour Centre-backed Sharks have been aching to capture their first title after previously disappointing campaigns. They made their first title appearance in Series 2 but lost to Cebu. The Sharks topped the elimination round in Series 3 but were beaten by the Dumaguete Unibikers in the playoffs. And then, they were swept by Batangas in Series 5.
It was a different story in Series 6 as the Sharks finished the series with a 7-2 record including a 4-1 win-loss card in the elimination round and a victory over the Alabang Tigers in the semifinals. The Sharks lost a game in the best-of-three title series against Cebu but that was not enough to stop the Sharks onslaught.
And so the plot is set.
Will Batangas win their third crown becoming the winningest team in Baseball Philippines?
Will Manila emerge as the first team in the league to win back-to-back crowns?