CHINA: SOFTBALL RP TEAM BLU GIRLS ON TRACK FOR PLAYOFFS

NANJING, CHINA, OCTOBER 17, 2003 (STAR) By Joey Villar  - Team Philippines banked on a solid game and superb hitting as it smashed the Czech Republic, 2-0, Thursday, to advance into the magic four in Group A of the seventh Junior Women’s World Softball Championship at the $2.2 million Nanjing University of Technology Stadium here.

Hurler Geda Valencia came through with another awesome performance at the mound as she struck out five batters while yielding only three hits as the Blu Girls notched a second win against the same number of losses. They earlier bowed to the highly fancied Japanese squad, 2-10.

A single to left field by catcher Yocel Aguilar, who celebrated her 18th birthday here Monday, sent Joan Locsin, a Santo Tomas education sophomore from Talisay, Negros Occidental, home for RP’s first run at the bottom of the third inning.

The Blu Girls’ other run came on the sixth frame courtesy of Locsin’s grounder to shorstop Karla Otoupalikova that sent Pampanga lass Elaine Caladiao safely home.

"Swerte lang," said Locsin.

It was an impressive win for the Philippines in this quadrennial meet for women aged 19 years old and below and improved tremendously on its past stints in the tournament.

RP placed dead last in the 1991 staging in Adelaide, Australia losing all 11 assignments and had one win in 13 outings eight years back in Normal, Illinois to place 12th in the 13-team field. It skipped the event in 1999 in Taipei.

"This is already an accomplishment because we have surpassed our performance in the two times the Philippines joined this event," said Manila Congressman Harry Angping (Third District), the RP delegation head.

"But we’re not going to be contented with that, we have set a higher goal, which is to make the playoffs," said Angping.

More importantly, RP inched closer to defending champion Japan (4-0) and host China (4-0) and power pitching Australia (3-1) for a chance to seal one of the four playoff berths in the first group.

It also more than made up for the Blu Girls’ 2-10 defeat at the hands of the Japanese, winners of three titles including the last edition four years ago in Chinese Taipei in a match where they committed four errors that translated to three runs.

Valencia, for her part, was overpowered by Japan’s dreaded battery of hitters as she yielded five of eight hits by the Japanese, a far cry from her awesome form against the Koreans Tuesday where she struck out eight batters and allowed only three hits.

But Valencia and the Filipinas were quick to recover from that setback with an inspiring game against the Czechs, who are one of the three qualifiers who made it to this scenic river city from last year’s European Championship . The others being the Russians and the Dutch.

"We played perfect defense, we didn’t panic," said RP coach Roberto Ituralde, assisted by Isaac Bacarisas and Chito Oncinian. "Credit that to our pitcher (Valencia) and a concerted defensive effort by the girls."

Also contributing greatly in defense were Aguilar, second baseman Sherylou Valenzuela and La Salle’s Joy Lanting, who replaced an ailing starter Karina Aribal on first base.

The Blu Girls will go up against the Aussies Thursday afternoon but the most crucial game will be against New Zealand Friday in a match where the winner advances to the playoffs against the No. 3 team in the other group, possibly Russia or Canada.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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