S'pore men's softball team hope to build on historic SEA Games gold
Singapore overcome hosts and powerhouses Philippines, who had beaten them earlier, to clinch title
The Singapore men's softball team made it a day to remember by winning their first SEA Games gold medal in history yesterday.
Despite losing 8-0 to hosts Philippines in the group stage, the Republic bounced back to stun the home favourites twice - 4-3 in the semi-finals and 6-1 in the grand final - at the Clark International Sports Complex.
Captain Ivan Ng was elated with his team's victory, praising their commitment to improve on their bronze-medal performance four years ago on home soil. The sport was not contested in Kuala Lumpur two years ago.
Said Ng: "I'm overjoyed. We've been through tough training... our expectations were to better our result in 2015, but once we secured silver (by qualifying for the final), we decided to aim for gold.
"The competition has been intense, and it was a battle. But we persevered and finally did it."
Singapore had opened their round-robin group campaign with a 10-2 victory over Indonesia, but lost 8-0 to the Philippines before finishing second in the four-team group by thumping Thailand 13-0.
The page format of the competition pitted the group-winning Filipinos against runners-up Singapore in the first semi-final, which the Republic won 4-3.
That meant the Philippines had to face Indonesia, who defeated Thailand in the other semi-final, with the winners meeting the Republic in the grand final. The Philippines progressed by winning 9-0.
Ng was determined for his team to bounce back after their earlier loss to the Philippines.
The 31-year-old praised the team's resolve and determination, saying: "We didn't give up. It was challenging to recover after that loss but we believed we could do it.
"We felt that we weren't at our best, but we showed our hunger when we beat them in the semis. To beat them on home soil made our win in the final even sweeter."
Coach Diamond So downplayed the Philippine media's claims of their victory being the biggest upset in the sport, citing their win over the hosts at the Men's Softball World Championship in Prague in June.
The Philippines have dominated the sport in this region. The women's team won gold in all 10 editions that the sport has featured, including this year.
Before yesterday's loss, the men had won every edition, except for the 1997 Games, where they lost to Indonesia.
So said: "We had beaten them 4-3 at the World Championships (for 15th place), so that gave us some confidence coming in.
CLOSING THE GAP
"They have been dominating the sport regionally for the longest time, but we managed to close the gap this time around.
"We prepared immensely for the Games, and we were prepared for them as well.
"With this victory, we will continue to improve our game."
He credited pitcher Aloysius Ong and vice-captain Dominic Han for their stellar performances in the final.
He said: "All my players brought their 'A' game.
"Aloysius really stood out; he came on swinging and was on form. Dominic was a great batter for us, helping the team to score."
Singapore Baseball & Softball Association president Foo Pei acknowledged the effort from the team, parents, coaches, sponsors, supporters and volunteers.
She hopes to build on their success and looks forward to the completion of their new grounds beside the Jurong East Stadium.
She said: "The men’s softball team has been working towards this moment.
"Behind every medal there is a lot of work that is required; this includes all the efforts by the coaches, parents, sponsors, supporters and volunteers. Hopefully this will mark the start of our team’s journey to greater achievements in other tournaments.
"To that end, we are looking forward to our new grounds to be established mid-2020, so that we can host international games.
"Hosting and playing such games on our homeground will give Singapore a greater presence on the international scene."