The Philippine Star

Only gold in bat­ters’ sights

- By JOAQUIN HEN­SON Sports · Philippines · Thailand · Indonesia · Taichung · Taipei · Dumaguete City · Asia · Beijing Film Academy · Hong Kong · Singapore · Pepe · South Korea · Korea Republic national football team · Pakistan · China · Japan · Sri Lanka · Monterrey · Monterrey · Mexico · Colombia · Mexico national football team · Philippine Amateur Baseball Association · Barranquilla · Colombia national football team · Northeastern University

Philip­pine Am­a­teur Base­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (PABA) pres­i­dent Chito Loyzaga said yes­ter­day he ex­pects no less than the gold medal from the bat­ters rep­re­sent­ing the host coun­try at the South­east Asian (SEA) Games late this year with the sport mak­ing a come­back af­ter an ab­sence in the last three edi­tions.

Base­ball will be played only in the men’s di­vi­sion at the Vil­lages in the New Clark City. It has been in the SEA Games cal­en­dar only thrice ever in 2005, 2007 and 2011. The Philip­pines took the gold in 2005 and 2011 and the sil­ver in 2007. Thai­land bagged the gold in 2007, sil­ver in 2005 and bronze in 2011. In­done­sia fin­ished third in 2005 and 2007 and ad­vanced to sec­ond in 2011.

With the SEA Games gold medal in mind, the Philip­pine team left last Sat­ur­day to par­tic­i­pate in the 29th Asian Base­ball Cham­pi­onships in Taichung, Taipei. The Philip­pine del­e­ga­tion is led by Du­maguete City Mayor Felipe (Ping) Re­mollo and lists a 25-man ros­ter. Head coach is Adam­son’s Or­lando Bi­narao as­sisted by La Salle’s Joseph Oril­lana and Isaac Bacarisas, Air Force’s Wilfredo Hidalgo and Ja­pa­nese ex­ec­u­tive/vol­un­teer Keiji Katayama.

In June last year, the Philip­pines qual­i­fied for the Asian Cham­pi­onships by top­ping the Base­ball Fed­er­a­tion of Asia (BFA) East Asia Cup in Hong Kong with an un­blem­ished 4-0 record over Thai­land, Hong Kong, In­done­sia and Sin­ga­pore. The Philip­pines missed the chance to gain ex­pe­ri­ence in the Asian Games that same year. “The crit­i­cal date of en­try for the Asian Games was in March but Chito was elected in May so the dead­line had passed,” said PABA sec­re­tary-gen­eral Pepe Munoz. The Philip­pines has not played base­ball in the last three Asian Games. Its high­est fin­ish in the Asian Games was fifth in 1998 and 2002.

In Taipei, the Philip­pines is brack­eted in Group B with Korea, Pak­istan and China. Group A is made up of Ja­pan, Hong Kong, Chi­nese-Taipei and Sri Lanka. The Philip­pines faces Pak­istan to­day, China to­mor­row and Korea on Wed­nes­day. The top two fin­ish­ers of both groups ad­vance to the “su­per round” where the top two plac­ers bat­tle for the gold and the last two plac­ers for the bronze on Sun­day. The last two fin­ish­ers of both groups in the pre­lim­i­nary stage will play in a con­so­la­tion round. In the pre­vi­ous Asian Cham­pi­onships in 2017, the Philip­pines fin­ished fourth.

Loyzaga said the Asian Cham­pi­onships are a qual­i­fier for the fourth U23 World Cup next year. Chi­nese-Taipei won the first World Cup in Taichung in 2014 and Ja­pan took the sec­ond in Mon­ter­rey, Mex­ico, in 2016. Mex­ico cap­tured the gold in the third edi­tion in Bar­ran­quilla, Colom­bia in 2018. The top three fin­ish­ers in this year’s Asian Cham­pi­onships will rep­re­sent the con­ti­nent in the com­ing World Cup in Mex­ico.

“It’s a qual­i­fier for the U23 World Cup, a rule set by the BFA,” said Munoz. “If we make it, we’ll send a younger team to Mex­ico.” The Philip­pine team’s av­er­age age is 25 with 12 play­ers over 23. The se­nior play­ers are Itakura Parts Philip­pines Corp.’s cen­ter­fielder Jonash Ponce, 37, Air Force’s pitcher JonJob Robles, 33, Adam­son-Air Force’s pitcher Romeo Jas­min, 31 and NU-Itakura’s out­fielder Jarus Ino­bio, 31.

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