Gilas stars, Lhuillier inspire Blu Girls to clinch semis


By Alder Almo | Philstar.com

INCHEON, South Korea - Drawing inspiration from the presence of Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines president Jean Henri Lhuillier and some of the Gilas stars, the Phl Blu Girls blanked Thailand, 13-0, on Tuesday at the Songdo LNG Baseball Stadium to enter the page system playoffs in the 17th Asian Games here.

Lhuillier rallied the team with a peptalk that sparked the Blu Girls' run at the playoff spot where they will meet the Asian Softball champion China in the semifinals on Wednesday.

"We're here for today and not for tomorrow. I've heard good things about you here. Let's start winning today and take it tomorrow. Let's do this for the country," Lhuillier told the Blu Girls.

And win they did.

After a scoreless first inning, center field Dani Gilmore touched off the Blu Girls' scoring run with a single RBI at the bottom of second inning.

Phl seized a 7-0 lead that put pressure on Thailand.

Starting pitcher Veronica Belleza, meanwhile, was solid on the mound that complemented the Blue Girls' offensive outbursts. She had a no-hitter and three strikeouts before reliever Analie Benjamen finished the game allowing only two hits.

Gilas players Jimmy Alapag, Gabe Norwood, Jared Dillinger and team consultant Tab Baldwin first arrived and wildly cheered from the stands at the height of the Blu Girls' seven runs in the second inning.

"It was great to be here and supporting our fellow Filipino athletes. They've watched our couple of games and it's our time to give back," Norwood said.

Gary David, Ranidel de Ocampo and LA Tenorio, who came from the Phl Volcanoes' losing match against China, followed and were able to witness Morgan Stuart's three RBIs in the bottom third that launched six runs for the Blu Girls before the game was halted in the fourth inning via mercy rule.

"We went scoreless in the first but we adjusted and hit our groove beginning the second inning. Our next game will be tough but we'll be ready," Stuart said.

The Blu Girls lost to China in the elimination, 8-2, but coach Randy Dizer is optimistic of their chances.

“Hindi pa tapos. If they play the way the played in the last two games, malaki ang chance natin. And they are up to it but China is still the team to beat. Asian champion pa rin sila,” said Dizer.

Prior to this win, the Blu Girls fought a gallant stand against Chinese Taipei before falling short, 5-4, on Monday.