The Manila Sharks, a team who on their quest to win their third straight championship and had only one loss in 10 elimination round matches, were expected to cruise to the finals against the Taguig Patriots, a team who is entering the semifinals for the first time since Series 4.
Surprisingly though, last July 16, the Sharks had to work hard for another trip to the finals.
Behind their defense that have been a hallmark of the team, the Sharks beat the Patriots with a close 2-0 decision at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium to advance to the finals of the Baseball Philippines Series 8.
The Sharks got an unexpected stiff challenge as the Patriots kept it close. In the end, Taguig could not score behind the defense of Manila.
On the offensive end, Marvin Malig blasted two RBIs on run-scoring hits in the first and eighth inning, enough for the Sharks to take the win.
But the difference of the game Manila stranding eight runners on base to stave off Taguig’s run-scoring bids all game.
“We had a hard time with Taguig’s defense and we haven’t played for almost a month. But we will always depend on pitching and defense and that is what the team showed,” said Manila coach Jhoel Palanog.
The loss spoiled Taguig starting pitcher Justin Payongayong’s complete game as he allowed seven hits but failed to get the run support from his teammates.
Jennald Pareja forced a lead-off walk and reached second on a groundout by Nino Tator before crossing home plate when Malig blasted a single to left center field.
Malig hit a bloop single to shallow left field in the eighth inning to also score Pareja after he singled and advanced to third base on a single by Christian Galedo.
Taguig looked poise to tie the game in the second inning when Ka’Sulhay Argel reached third base with one out but failed to cross home plate on a base running blunder before Labrador got back to his pitching resolve to end the inning.
Alfredo Olivarez also reached third base in the fourth inning with no outs but Labrador got out of the jam putting out the next three batters to strand Olivarez.
By Reuben Terrado