Philippines came to the 12th Men Softball Asia Cup in Kochi for a repeat performance of reaching the final, but will have to settle for a bronze medal play-off.
Philippines put themselves in trouble today when against Singapore, who were also eyeing a place in the final against host and defending champion, Japan, defeated them 9-5, gaining seven runs in the first inning.
That was suicidal for Philippines, because trying to catch up was indeed a tough task and finally had to concede 5-9.
Philippines’ mission to be in the final was made even more difficult as they had to play a back-to-back match against Japan.
While they definitely started on a better note against Japan than they did against Singapore, when the first inning concluded 0-0.
Philippines head coach Jasper Cabrera was disappointed with the outcome against Singapore.
“We just gave away seven runs in the first inning because of poor pitching. Leo Barredo is an experienced pitcher, but he was not well since arriving three days ago. But he recovered and we fielded him,” said Cabrera.
Barredo was only replaced in the third inning by Melvin De Castro.
But surprisingly, Barredo started off as pitcher against Japan and Lyonas de Leon was only bought in to replace him in the 7th inning and after two pitches, De Leon was replaced by Julius Rosh Dela Cruz.
While Barredo gave an improved performance against Japan, the Japanese found their rhythm in the second inning and started hitting the balls and picked up 4 runs.
Philippines play Hong Kong in their final preliminary single round match tomorrow, while Japan take on Chinese Taipei, and Singapore have to deal with India.
Top teams Japan, Singapore and Philippines should win their games, but can expect some resistance, especially with Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong blowing hot and cold.
Cabrera said they have to blame themselves failing to play in the final.
“At this stage, our priority is that we qualify for the World Cup which means at worst we have to win the bronze. At least there is three slots available now as compared two last year,” said Cabrera.
Three tickets have been offered to Asia this year because the World Cup format.
While previously the two qualifier qualified automatically to the one Stage World Cup, now there is the Group stage where the 3 qualifiers in the three Group Stages have to finish among the top two in each Group to qualify for the World Cup proper and the two best teams from the third placed teams in each Group based on their World Cup ranking and other factors, will make the cut as ‘Wild card’ entries.
Against Japan this evening, Philippines tried hard and pushed the game to seven innings, but it was not good enough, as when the Japanese players starting hitting, they become alive with speedy runners whizzing from one base to another.
Like when in the second inning, when Philippines lost concentration and slacked a little, the Japanese had four runs.
After stalemates from the second to fourth inning, Japan added another run in the sixth inning and seventh for a 6-0 win.
Philippines made a late surge in the bottom sixth inning, when they had runners in first and third base, but proved futile, as Japan remained calm to put them out.
Japan had 14 hits and no errors, while Philippines had three hits and one error.
The Japanese team here is their U-23 Men that finished runners-up in the World Cup in Panana, Argentina in April, losing to Australia by a single run achieved in the seventh inning, despite a clean run in the tournament including defeating the Aussies 8-1.
Despite being youth team, they have done well to put the more senior and experienced teams in their corner.
And with their latest victory over Philippines, they have conquered all top contenders in this year’s tournament and have rightfully earned the favourite tag.
Singapore will be looking to turn the tables in the final against Japan, especially after their narrow 0-2 lost in the preliminary round match, but judging from the Japanese team’s performance so far, where they perform just to win their games, all indications are that they are saving the best for the last.
Meanwhile in the other final match of the day today, Chinese Taipei sent India who has been riddled with several internal problems packing with a 7-0 victory.
India who finished fourth last year with some surprise performances, certainly have not lived up to their performance last year as they could end up wooden spoonist of tournament.
Singapore 6 Chinese Taipei 2
Hong Kong 10 India 3
Hong Kong 0 Japan 10
Philippines 5 Singapore 9
Japan 6 Philippines 0
India 0 Chinese Taipei 7
Hong Kong 0 Singapore 9
India 1 Philippines 5
India 0 Japan 12
Philippines 7 Chinese Taipei 1
Japan 2 Singapore 0
Hong Kong 7 Chinese Taipei 0
Hong Kong v Philippines
India v Singapore
Japan v Chinese Taipei
FINAL DAY (WEDNESDAY) FIXTURES
Bronze medal PR#3 v PR#4
Gold medal PR#1 v PR#2
(The 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed teams on the completion of the Final competition will qualify as the three (3) Asia teams eligible to participate in the WBSC Wold Cup (Group Stage) Men Softball 2024 (host cities and dates to be determined)