Panes: A Kalinga repeat

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, February 17, 2014

WEEKS after this school year’s school opening, coach Rafael Alcodia of the Agbannawag National High School (ANHS) in Kalinga had texted and shared with me a personal and professional dilemma. After representing Cordilleras Administrative Region (CAR) to the Palarong Pambansa in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, CARAA’s 2013 defending champions would be losing more than half of his team’s core to graduation.

The graduating softball players of the Sunrise High team were heavily recruited by BBEAL’s softball teams. For the University of the Cordilleras at that time, I had sought to recruit four of the team’s promising standouts but would only succeed in getting the nod of three softbelles and their parents. These talents in my view were good material to carry the burden to sustain the PRISAA national championship.

Some of ANHS softball players enrolled at St. Louis University. I did not however see them suit up for the Navigators in the last BBEAL. Janice Maborrang, the team’s starting pitcher was swayed to join the University of Cagayan Valley in Tuguegarao. Her addition to the UCV squad would bolster PRISAA Region 2 line-up to the National Collegiate Games. A few would remain close to home. They would enroll and tryout with the Kalinga-Apayao State University (KASU).


The annual CARAA tournament was still seven (7) months away and coach Alcodia confessed that the 2013 champion squad was a shadow of its former strength and capability, save for the team’s relief catcher who would be on her senior year in 2014. He confessed in an exchange of texts that the prospects in their freshman and secondary years were young and far from being game ready. “Malabo na madepensahan ang titulo naming ngayong taon,” he texted. “Ang iba nga takot sa bola.”

I commiserated with his coaching plight. The reduction or decimation of a winning line up for whatever cause, recruitment of players to replace the loss of talents and sustaining a program which aims to establish a personal legacy is truly a coaching dilemma. I understood from which ground he was speaking. While honing a college softball team to competitiveness has been personally intense and challenging for me, recruitment, motivation and motivation of players at the grassroots level are in a unique class of its own.

“Ano masa-suggest mo, coach?” coach Alcodia inquired.

In the recent 2014 CARAA athletic meet in the Wangal Grounds, team Kalinga hurdled its assignments. By the middle of the elimination round, the red shirts of ANHS stood waiting at the top of hill. Apayao and Abra fell on the second day. Baguio secondary softball which I felt had the best chance of snaring the CARAA title lost steam as it moved forward.

In the semi-final round, Mt. Province batters collapsed in the hands of Evans Gadiano-led Mankayan National High School squad as the Benguet province advanced to the finals.

That the Kalinga sluggers had come as far as the championship round with a young line up was quite a surprise. How a young squad squeaked a win over Benguet with the score even on the 5th and final inning fascinates me.

Kalinga was on deck on the top of inning. Using the “Tie Breaker Rule” applicable during a tied score, Janice Alejandro, the Kalinga pitcher was placed on 2nd base, being the last batter at the end of the previous inning.

Sunshine Bautista, the first batter attempted a bunt off Benguet pitcher Shantal Da-ang but missed. The optic yellow softball fell off the catcher’s gloves of a distracted Evans Gadiano and the runner advanced to third for a steal. Bautista sent the next pitch rolling in the infield. A failed catch by Benguet’s first base after an infielder’s throw sent the runner at 3rd to score for the tie breaker. The score now stood 4-3.

On their final at bat, Benguet had not scored. Kalinga’s providential defense held the green shirts scoreless. Alcodia and the girls of Agbannawag National High School inevitably repeated as CARAA softball champions. At the end of the CARAA hostilities, the Kalinga delegation had brought home all batted ball crowns – a rare feat in the Cordilleras. Some have in the social media posted that this sweep is the first of its kind and they now own history. Maybe an authority from the Regional DepEd will confirm.

I do not know what coach Alcodia did to defend Kalinga secondary’s softball crown. I wouldn’t also know if he took my suggestions to heart but I may have inkling what made his efforts succeed. One day, I might just ask him formally but I won’t ask him yet. I’ll allow him to recollect his thoughts. After reading this article, who knows he might e-mail me his secrets. Hopefully, I’ll learn something new. I’m softball good but I can always be better.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 18, 2014.


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