The GSM Masters lived up to its name after ruling the 2016 Masters Baseball League following its convincing 26-13 victory over Sai Sei in their title match last Tuesday night at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Baseball Field.
The second-seeded GSM Masters collected 13 runs in the pivotal bottom of the fourth inning and survived Sai Sei’s rally at the top of the sixth to prevail in the winner-take-all finale.
The bottom of the fourth inning began with the GSM Masters ahead by only 2 runs, 9-7, but it ended with the eventual champions threatening to pull away, 22-7. All of the GSM Masters’ top of the order reached home for the first nine runs and four scored, too on their second at bat, while one batted three times.
John Terlaje led the breakaway, going 2-for-2 at bat and tallying four RBIs. He had a two-run triple in his first trip at the plate and at two-run single in his second. Marco Peter, John Diaz, and Mark Flores added two RBIs each, while Ben Hocog had one RBI.
Hocog was also the GSM Masters player that went at-bat for the third time at the top of the fourth inning with the bases loaded. His grounder to shortstop, however, was picked up by Ota Nobuyuki, who threw the ball to Darwin Masaharu at first base and the latter tagged Hocog out to end the agonizing inning for Sai Sei. Masaharu earlier at the bottom of the fourth pitched for his team after starter Kuich Damian gave up five earned runs, however the former could not also stop the bleeding for Sai Sei and the latter was forced to retake the mound late in that long period.
Now facing a double-digit deficit, Sai Sei was pressed to mount a comeback, which started in the sixth inning after the GSM Masters got one more run in the fifth for a 23-7 advantage. Taylor Germance anchored Sai Sei’s rally with his two-run double and his team’s four other runs were also earned ones with three of them could be half credited to pinch runner Nizer Masayos, who volunteered to round the bases.
With his successes, Masayos was even called by Sai Sei fans as the team’s lucky charm in that inning. The rightfielder was poised to reach home for the fourth time as he was on third base, but was denied after a big defensive stop from Mark Flores. Flores recovered a fumble from shortstop Walter Macaranas, who was about to pick up a grounder from Justin Reyes. The ball, however, bounced up high and off Macaranas’ hand, but fortunately Flores was near the play and caught the ball, stepped back to second base and tagged Reyes out to wrap up the top of the sixth.
At the bottom of the sixth, the GSM Masters gained more cushion, adding three runs off Peter’s two-run single and Mark Flores’ RBI single.
With its season on the line, Sai Sei, which moved to the finals after stunning pennant champions BSI Aces in the semis last week, needed at least 13 runs at the top of the seventh and last inning to continue the game. The seemingly insurmountable task hit a snag right from the get-go as leadoff batter Germance flied out at centerfield. Damien was second at bat and walked, but was later beaten to second, while Masaharu moved to first on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second after a wild pitch from closer Ton Flores.
Now one out away from closing the game and clinching the title, the GSM Masters nearly got the third out in the next play when designated hitter Otes Olkeriil’s grounder to shortstop was picked up by Macaranas, who threw the ball to Peter at first base. Peter leapt for the catch and then turned to tag out Olkeriil, but the umpire called the latter safe, keeping Sai Sei’s hopes alive, but not for long. Sai Sei’s impending loss in the finals came in the ensuing play when Salalila’s grounder in between first and second base was fielded by Mark Flores, who then tossed the ball to Peter for the third out.