Palma cited in Asian Cup
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 17, 2019 - 12:00am

Former Adamson ace Clariz Palma was awarded the trophy as the pitcher with the best win-loss average at the Baseball Federation of Asia (BFA) women’s baseball Asian Cup while another Filipina, third base Whell Camral, was named to the mythical All-Star team at the end of the seven-day competition in Guangdong, China, last Friday.

Palma, 26, compiled a 3-0 record and pitched in four of the Philippines’ six games. Palma was credited for the Philippines’ wins over Hong Kong, 12-3, South Korea, 14-7 and China, 11-1, in the rematch for the bronze medal. She checked in to relieve Nicole Estante in the Philippines’ 6-2 decision over China early in the Super Round but her performance in the last inning didn’t merit the win.

Philippine head coach Egay de los Reyes of NU and assistants Tata Empasis of NU and Jeffrey Santiago of UST kept Palma out of the rotation in a step-back strategy for the games against Chinese-Taipei in the group preliminaries and Japan in the Super Round. Against World No. 3 Chinese-Taipei, the Philippines went with pitchers Alaiza Talisik, Mhamie de la Cruz, Estante, Christine Bautista, Edna Severino and Jennifer Singh. Chinese-Taipei blanked the Philippines, 15-0. The Philippines managed only three hits.

Against Japan, the Philippines deployed Singh, Charlotte Sales and De la Cruz to preserve Palma for the China rematch the next day. The Philippines registered two runs by Estante and Diana Balderama in losing, 18-2. In Japan’s six games in the tournament, only the Philippines scored more than one run against the World No. 1. 

The Philippines’ first game against China was a humdinger at the Pandas Heritage Stadium last Wednesday. Estante was the starting pitcher and went six innings, giving up two hits and two runs. Palma checked in for the last inning and didn’t yield a hit or run. The Philippines won, 6-2, behind seven hits, two by Lealyn Guevarra who smacked a double.  Sales blasted a triple. Ivy Capistrano contributed a sacrifice fly, one hit, two runs and two RBIs.  One of Capistrano’s RBIs came with two outs. The Philippines stormed to a 5-0 lead after five innings then China scored twice in the top of the sixth. The Philippines added another run in the bottom of the sixth before Palma cleaned it up in the top of the seventh. Estante pitched a perfect game until the fifth and got the win. Palma closed it out in 1-2-3 fashion, facing only three batters. The first was a fly out. The second was a strikeout and the third was a grounder to third, leading to an out on first.

The second game against China was a massacre last Friday. Palma went five straight innings until officials called it off with the Philippines on top, 11-1, under the mercy rule. She also pitched without relief in the Hong Kong game, going seven innings and facing 28 batters. Palma, a native of Murcia, Negros Occidental, gave up three hits and one earned run in the China rematch. 

Camral, 25, was steady at third base and recognized for her stellar play. In the win over Hong Kong, she cracked four hits and registered two RBIs in five at-bats. Her hits included a double and a triple.

Japan claimed the crown after beating Chinese-Taipei, 2-1, in the final. Earlier in the Super Round, Japan crushed Chinese-Taipei, 16-1 so the close result in the gold medal match was unexpected. Japan was the tournament’s only undefeated team, finishing 6-0. Chinese-Taipei and the Philippines ended with 4-2 records. The other Super Round qualifier China posted a 2-4 mark.

The four Super Round qualifiers earned automatic tickets to the ninth World Cup next year. So far, nine countries have been confirmed for the World Cup with only three slots left, reserved for the Oceania champion and two wildcards. The nine countries are Canada, France, Mexico, US, Venezuela and the top four placers in the Asian Cup. The World Cup is held every other year and was started in 2004 with the US capturing the first two titles then Japan bagging the last six. Of the eight World Cups, Asia has hosted four with Japan twice and South Korea and Chinese-Taipei once.

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