Ace hurler Royeve Palma redeemed herself from an opening day setback to China with a masterful handling of South Korea, leading host Philippines to a morale-boosting 5-2 victory for the last seat in the seventh Asian Softball 19-Under Women Softball Finals at the Clark International Sports Complex in Pampanga on Wednesday.
Unbeaten and four-time champion Japan racked up its sixth straight win with a 16-0 thrashing of Thailand; defending champion Chinese Taipei overpowered India, 16-0; and Korea bounced back with a 15-3 rout of Malaysia in other results.
Japan topped the eight-team series with a 6-0 slate, Chinese Taipei posted a 5-1 card, China and Philippines wound up with identical 4-2 marks to complete the page system finals.
Korea and Malaysia ended up with 2-4 slates followed by Thailand (1-5) and India (0-6).
With the completion of the finals cast, the Philippines’ match against Japan today has been rendered non-bearing.
The page system finals will be held tomorrow at 1 p.m. with Japan facing Taiwan and China taking on the host squad.
The winner in Japan-Chinese Taipei match will take a bye with the loser facing the winner between China and Philippines. The victor will clash with the top team in a winner-take-all match. The loser in the China-Philippines duel automatically places fourth.
Chise Yamashita yielded one hit and one error in the initial inning and retired three Thai batters to complete a four-inning romp, Japan’s fourth abbreviated win in six matches.
Only China and Chinese Taipei managed to score runs against Japan in the tournament held under the auspices of Softball Federation Asia and backed by the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee.
The finals appearance was the third by the Philippines in the competition dubbed as the “Olympic of Softball in Asia” and held for the first in the country. The Philippines placed third in 1997 behind Japan and China and finished second in 2004 topped by Japan in South Korea.
A veteran of two World Series in 2013 and 2014 in Oregon, USA, Palma, who turned 17 last March 28, stunned the Koreans with a deadly combination of riser and curve balls as the Junior Blu Girls claimed their fourth win in six outings while dealing Korea its fourth setback against two wins over India and Malaysia.
Palma fanned out 15 Korean batters, made four standing strikeouts while yielding three hits, two in the second inning and one in the seventh frame.
The rest blasted Kim Jae Eun with a stinging combined 10-hit effort over seven innings to help anchor the win.
“I really prepared hard for this game and I don’t want to disappoint my coach. I also wanted to atone for that loss to China,” said Palma.
The Koreans offered little resistance against the locals, who reaffirmed their supremacy before a motley crowd that included former PSC commissioner and Philippine Little Administrator Jose Luis Gomez.
A native of Iloilo from Pototan but now based in Tanauan, Batangas, Palma proved unforgiving and dealt the Koreans with solid throws over seven innings in sweltering heat.
“There was pressure but they handled it well,” said coach Isaac Bacarisas assisted by coaches Ramil Mercado, Jasper Cabrera and Belina Ramillano and pitching coach Mary Joy Lasquite.