‘100% Benjamen shows up to rejuvenate vulnerable Adamson Softball in UAAP Finals
Anton Roxas on Mar 14, 2016 09:46 AM
“Kumuha ako ng motivation galing kay Coach Ana. Yung teammates ko, hindi na lang umaasa sa akin. Oras ng laro, yung puso namin, nasa game. Hindi ko kaya ng mag isa. Proud ako sa kanila dahil nandyan sila para sa akin.” - Adamson pitcher Pong Benjamen
73 straight wins.
That is the longest winning streak in the history of the UAAP in any sport. Holding that distinction are the current five-time champions of UAAP Softball – The Adamson University Lady Falcons.
The streak began almost six years ago, when the Lady Falcons started their UAAP Season 73 campaign and went on to win what became the first of five-straight Softball titles.
However, on March 2, 2016, the Adamson streak finally fell at the hands of the University of Sto. Tomas, who shocked the seemingly invincibly Lady Falcons with a stunning 6-2 victory.
“Syempre, may mga umiyak. Marami,” said Adamson Head Coach Ana Santiago, who has been mentoring the team since 2006.
“Pero ang sinabi ko sa kanila, ‘Learn from the past’.”
Following the UST loss, the Lady Falcons faced adversity once again, trailing 6-2 against the University of the Philippines in the Final Four. If not for a five-run blast in the sixth inning, Adamson would have lost again. They dodged a bullet before returning to the Finals.
Santiago identified one major problem in those two games: The disappearance of Annalie "Pong" Benjamen.
“Nawala yung kumpiyansa niya,” said Santiago.
Benjamen, a two-time MVP awardee, felt the same way. After their close call against UP, the Bacolod-native seemed worried. She even doubted herself.
“Sana bumalik yung kundisyon ko.”
In a game time decision, Santiago decided to insert Benjamen as the starting pitcher for Game 1 even though she’s been unsteady in Adamson’s last two games. KJ Lacupa hit a line drive towards center field that was vacuumed in by the glove of Lorna Adorable. Hannah Dela Torre drew a walk before Adorable caught Celestine Palma’s flyball. CJ Roa connected for a base hit. But, Benjamen left her stranded on first base after registering a strikeout on Mallows Garde to prevent UST from scoring in the first inning.
That set the tone for the entire game as the Lady Falcons unleashed four runs in the second inning and another five at the bottom of the fourth. Benjamen went on to tally three more strikeouts for a total of four in the game.
Santiago did not hesitate when asked whether she thought Benjamen returned to form in Game 1.
“Bumalik na yung kumpiyansa niya. 100%.”
But, she reiterated to Benjamen’s teammates that a championship cannot be won by one player alone.
“Lagi ko pinapaalala na, “Don’t depend on your pitcher.’ Kaya nag level-up yung mga kasamahan ni Benjamen especially sa offense. Yung pagbabalik ngayon ni Benjamen, malaking bagay dahil nananalo kami sa mga huling laro namin without our offense because nandyan si Benjamen. Nung natalo kami, wala si Benjamen. Ngayon, nag combine, kaya kami nanalo.”
Benjamen was relieved to have gotten the victory.
“Kumuha ako ng motivation galing kay Coach Ana. Yung teammates ko, hindi na lang umaasa sa akin. Oras ng laro, yung puso namin, nasa game. Hindi ko kaya ng mag isa. Proud ako sa kanila dahil nandyan sila para sa akin.”
Just like that, the Adamson Lady Falcons are one win away from taking home yet another UAAP Softball crown. And Benjamen has an opportunity to graduate as one of the few athletes in the UAAP to have won five championships in all their playing years in the league.