SINGAPORE – Raffles Institution’s softballers saved their best for the last game of the boys’ A Division championship as they cruised to a 7-1 win over Eunoia Junior College in the final on Tuesday.
They might have walked onto the River Valley High School pitch as defending champions and had already beaten the same opponents 5-0 in the preliminary rounds but there was still plenty of pressure for Raffles.
But they maintained composure with decisive runs and accurate pitching and took a 3-0 lead after the first inning.
RI captain Tao Kobayashi, 18, said this final was very different from the one they experienced 12 months ago.
The JC2 student said: “Last year, we went into the final thinking that there was nothing to lose and wanted to give it our all and have a lot of fun.
“But this time, there was extra pressure of defending this championship so we had a team talk and told each other that we trust each other and to give it our all.”
In 2022, RI had beaten Eunoia 6-0 to relcaim the softball championship. They had won seven in a row from 2011 to 2017 before their streak was ended by Hwa Chong Institution in 2018. The latter also triumphed in 2019 before the next two editions were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Leading up to the 2023 final, the Raffles team organised extra training sessions which lasted two to three hours after school to straighten out errors made in the preliminary matches, said Tao.
He added: “We tried to stay grounded and not be complacent. We wanted to keep our heads down and play our usual game on the field.”
RI coach Farhan Harahap, 34, said his charges put on their best display of the season in the final with stable catching and pitching.
He added: “I told the team that as defending champions, it’s normal to face a lot more pressure than underdogs.
“Normalise these emotions, manage them, play in a calm and composed manner and get the job done.”
After Rishon Toh scored a home run to give RI a commanding lead early on, pitcher Looi Zi Jenn kept Eunoia’s batters at bay. When Stuart Seetoh hit a home run in the third inning, Raffles held a comfortable 5-0 advantage.
In the fifth and final inning, Stuart drove in two more runners as Raffles moved 7-0 ahead. Eunoia got a late consolation run through Jotham Yeo.
When Zi Jenn got the final out, his teammates threw their gloves in the air in celebration while their supporters, carrying school flags and inflatable clappers, cheered loudly.
Eunoia captain Titus Lim, 18, praised his teammates despite the loss. He said: “We played to the best that we could and even though we were trying to catch up most of the time. We had great fighting spirit but fell short and caught up a bit too late.
“But I’m proud we made it this far in the tournament.”
The girls’ final on Wednesday is between Dunman High School and Anglo-Chinese Junior College.