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By Robert Balajadia
With their backs against the wall, the IT&E Braves forced a Game 5 while swinging for their playoff lives against the AM Insurance Orioles by winning Game 4 with a score 7-6 after both teams traded the lead through out the game during a special Father’s Day edition of the BBL Playoffs.
Braves’ Rico Castro brought his big game swing into Game 4 changing the course of the game after every at bat. Castro’s first trip to the plate resulted in a two-run home run to put the Braves up 2-1 after giving up the lead in the top of the first inning.
“I called that shot on Rico’s home run,” said Braves’ bat boy Joshua “Slush” Manglona. “I kept saying ‘here comes the boom’,” giving nod to Castro’s entrance song ‘Here Comes the Boom’ by Nelly.
But Castro’s biggest hit undoubtably came when the Braves were tied in the bottom of the 6th inning at five runs. With the bases jacked, Castro landed a shot to his favorite corner of the field off pitcher John Pangelinan that brought in two runs to go up 7-5. Castro was caught trying to take second base though the slugger smiled and stopped before trying to tag the bag as Orioles’ second baseman Jathan Muna Barnes got the out to end the inning.
“It feels great. I was fortunate enough to get a good pitch on both at bats. We want to step up and not make it easy for the [Orioles] so we prepared and just used things we can control. They’re a great team and we just needed to limit their runs and we just came in with timely hits,” said Castro on changing the score at his hand.
The Orioles had a chance to take the lead in the top of the 9th inning but a double-play ended the game forcing the final game of the series which will be played out on Thursday.
Orioles’ JR Hattig made the most of his plate appearances after bringing in the teams first run. Hattig went to work in the fourth inning by getting a 2RBI double with two outs away. The Orioles went up 5-3 at that point appearing to once again steal momentum of the game.
The Braves were in danger of leaving the 7th inning scoreless with BJ Balajadia at bat with two runners on base and two outs away. Balajadia took a swing and missed which would have ended the inning, but a pass ball allowed Balajadia to sprint quickly to first base to load the bases.
Pangelinan threw a wild pitch with Braves’ Jim Reyes at bat which allowed teammate JT Tuquero to sprint home the game-tying run. Reyes was eventually walked which loaded the bases for Castro to put his final stamp on the game.
The 7th inning was highlighted by defensive plays of third baseman Alan Sarmiento who made a leaping grab over his head during Orioles’ Matt Muna’s at bat and had the presence of mind to fire off a throw to first base where Castro was waiting to catch Hattig before he could make it back to the bag.
The Orioles went through two pitchers in starting pitcher Mateo Mantanane and Pangelinan before letting R-Jay Joe take over in the 8th inning. Joe didn’t allow any more runs, but the Braves’ defense held strong to capture the win.
Braves’ Paul Lujan came in for starting pitcher Glenn Palomo after Hattig put the Orioles up 5-3 in the fourth inning. Lujan allowed just one run in the 8th inning from Oriole’s Calvert Alokoa.
Lujan gets the win for the Braves while Pangelinan gets the loss for the Orioles.
With their championship pedigree being well tested Castro explained that the Braves’ mindset will not change.
“We are approaching Game 5 like it’s our last game like today. We’re going to come out strong with our pitching and defense. If we’re close at the end of the game then that’s all we could ask for. If we have a chance to win the game at the end then that’s more than enough for us. Hopefully luck is on our side.”
Winning on Fathers Day also added a something feeling for Castro who gave a shootout to his daughter Leah Marie Castro who will be representing Guam on the National Volleyball team.
Will the Orioles end the dynasty or are the five-time champions going to make the loudest statement any team on Guam has ever made? Only Game 5 between the two will decide. Stay tuned for the fireworks.
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