By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER – For a lot of teams at the inaugural International Challenge, one looming question had to center on just how quickly would a group of strangers, albeit one bonded by nationality, figure out how to play together?
For Team Philippines, the chemistry and camaraderie has taken root straight out of the gate, as the squad won both its games Friday at the Christopher Fields complex, topping Great Britain (16-4) and then the Dominican Republic in the nightcap, 10-2. There will be just a handful of other 2-0 teams when pool play continues Saturday at 8 a.m. Championship brackets are set to begin at 3 p.m.
Against the DR, Team Philippines jumped ahead 6-0, and then responded to its only rough inning with another four runs in the third, with the game called due to time after the top of the fourth inning. Olivia Kam hit a two-run homer early, and Brooke Perez did solid work in relief of Kam to keep the DR offense on ice.
“We’re not surprised; we were fortunate to get together and have a practice (earlier), and that prepared us to come together quickly,” said Philippine coach Jennifer Stewart. “I loved the energy, and they’ve just jelled, and that’s been the best thing. We want to be super geeked up, but not cocky. We want to stay humble, play our game and just have fun.”
The good times are easy when the offense goes double digits on back-to-back games. Allyssa Alano, a St. Mary’s College commit, had three hits, a run and two RBI, doing a nice job of understanding her role when hitting second in the order.
“Our team is like a family, and we are working together. For me, the job was to move the runners over, but if it was bases loaded like it was a couple of times, I want to get the ball in the outfield or at least put it in play,” Alano said. “We expected to go out hard because we’ve been working at it; we didn’t know much about the other teams, so we just figure all the teams are going to be good.”
Kyra Chan had two doubles and scored twice from the leadoff spot; Baylee Howley-Bernardo drove in two runs with a double, and Kobie Hura (Rutgers commit) reached base twice, scoring a run and driving in another. Isabella Kam (Dartmouth commit) drove in two runs as well.
“First game started a little rough, but we came together and brought the energy. This game, we were on fire with the bats so we wanted to jump on top quickly,” said Olivia Kam, who made a nice easy swing on her home run. “The pitcher left it right there; I was waiting for a mistake, and I took advantage.
“We all get along so well. We weren’t forced to do any team bonding, and that has helped us play better.”
Emily Albelo singled and scored for the Dominican in the third inning, one of just three hits for the team.