Batters slip out of medal round
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines tied China and Korea with identical 2-1 records in the Group B preliminaries of the 29th Asian Baseball Championships in Taichung, Taiwan, the other day but failed to qualify for the Super Round due to an inferior quotient as only the top two finishers in the bracket advanced.

After zooming to a 2-0 start, the Philippines lost a 12-2 decision to world No. 3 Korea and fell to a triple tie with China and Korea. The fourth entry in Group B, Pakistan, finished the preliminaries with a 0-3 record. The Philippines upset China, 1-0 and China surprised Korea, 4-3, creating the three-team logjam.

To break the deadlock, the Baseball Federation of Asia (BFA) applied the TQB (Team Quality Balance) system where a team is rated according to runs scored divided by offensive innings minus runs allowed divided by defensive innings. Using the formula, Korea wound up No. 1 with +0.53, China No. 2 with -0.01 and the Philippines No. 3 with -0.55. Korea and China advanced from Group B to join Group A leaders Japan and Chinese-Taipei in the Super Round where the top two finishers dispute the title on Sunday.

The Philippines has been relegated to the consolation pool where it will play Hong Kong at 6:30 tonight and Sri Lanka at 6:30 tomorrow night. The highest the Philippines can finish is fifth. In the previous Asian Championships in New Taipei City in 2017, the Philippines made it to the Super Round and wound up fourth but China didn’t participate. The Philippines faced Korea thrice that year, losing, 18-3 in the preliminaries, 11-0 in the Super Round and 15-0 in the playoff for third.

In the current world ratings, the Philippines is No. 33. Korea is No. 3, China No. 20, Pakistan No. 24, Hong Kong No. 28 and Sri Lanka, No. 41.

“Our first priority was to compete properly in Taichung,” said Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) president Chito Loyzaga. “Our gameplan was to beat China and make it to the Super Round. We did our part in beating China but we never expected China to beat Korea. If Korea beat China, we would’ve qualified for the Super Round. We never dreamed to win the championship but we were out to do our best. China beating Korea was not under our control. Even if we didn’t advance to the Super Round, I’m happy with our performance. We sent a strong message that we’re back in Asian baseball, that we can compete in China’s level.”

Loyzaga said with two games left in the Asian Championships, the Philippines is determined to finish with a flourish. “Nobody thought Korea would lose to China but it happened,” he said. “Now, we’re hoping to clobber Hong Kong and Sri Lanka to improve our world standing.”

Against Korea, the Philippines was first on the scoreboard with Diego Lozano smacking a solo homerun in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. “It’s interesting that Lozano also hit a homerun against Chinese-Taipei in 2017,” said PABA secretary-general Pepe Munoz. “Our starting pitcher was Junmar Diarao then Arvin Herrera took over and finally, Paolo Macasaet. I think we can beat both Hong Kong and Sri Lanka. In the preliminaries, Hong Kong beat Sri Lanka, 5-1. These two games will be a good warm-up for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Pakistan are roughly in the same level as Indonesia and Thailand.”

Loyzaga said the Asian tournament is a perfect training ground for the coming SEA Games. “We’re developing camaraderie, cohesiveness and teamwork,” he said. “The Asian Championships will be our final competition before the SEA Games. Two weeks before the start of the SEA Games, we’ll bring our team to get used to playing conditions at Clark. Baseball wasn’t played in the last three SEA Games so now that it’s back, every team is preparing hard. We actually tried to get women’s baseball in the schedule but we needed at least four countries to participate and only Indonesia was willing along with the Philippines. We hope it will be included in future SEA Games.”

Loyzaga said without PSC’s support, it would’ve been difficult for PABA to get on the right track. “Hats off to PSC and I’m grateful for the all-out support,” he said. “PABA has no one from the private sector or godfather to run to, someone who embraces the sport and can help bring it to the next level. PSC has been extremely supportive. There are 24 male baseball players receiving monthly allowances and nine coaches, three each for U15, men and women, from PSC.”

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