Senior Skylynne Ellazar got a little more than she bargained for when a ground ball took a bad bounce and whacked her in the face prior to the start of the Asian Softball Championships earlier this month in Taiwan. Ellazar would have to deal with a broken nose before she even stepped on the field for the Phillipines Blu Girls National Team.
Ellazar, who is a native of Hawaii but has Filipino heritage, was forced to wear a protective mask on her face for the remainder of tournament. The added equipment didn’t deter her or her team’s progress however, as the Philippines put together an impressive run to a silver medal finish at the Championships.
With the second-place finish, the Philippines also qualified for the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia and the 2018 World Championship in Chiba, Japan. Ellazar now has plenty of softball to look forward to even before her senior season in a Maryland uniform begins.
“I think it’s just cool because it just shows that everything happens for a reason,” said Ellazar. “I didn’t think I was going to keep playing softball after I graduated, that wasn’t something I really set on doing. But now that I think back, why wouldn’t I keep playing?”
Ellazar’s journey with the Philippines national team began last summer, after she made the squad prior to competing in the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City and the Canada Cup International Softball Championships. She then set her sights on the Asian Championships, and tailored her training throughout the fall season to compete at the event in early December.
Spending time training with the team, which consists of native Filipino players and nine current American college players, was eye-opening on several levels for Ellazar.
“Playing alongside the Filipino natives is such a rewarding experience,” said Ellazar. “That’s what they look forward to, you see how these girls live and their families and where they come from and it just puts a lot of things into perspective. These girls come from tough situations, living in houses with four families in them. It makes you appreciate everything you have.”
Ellazar primarily played third base for the Philippines, and believes some of her biggest gains came on the offensive side of the ball.
“I feel like my hitting definitely excelled. Prior to going out there, Coach Hayward and I worked a lot. I didn’t change my hitting style entirely, but just my mentality was so much stronger going there. I knew what to expect in international play; the pitching is different because pitchers can crow hop. You think that that wouldn’t make a big difference with timing but it really does.”
One of Ellazar’s highlight moments came in the bottom of the eighth inning against China, when she delivered a walk off hit to seal a 4-3 win for the Philippines. Her team then reached the finals by avenging their early loss to Chinese Taipei, 5-3.
Despite a loss to the world’s No. 1 ranked team Japan in the final, Ellazar and her teammates still felt a sense of accomplishment and excitement for what lies ahead.
“Walking off the field we just felt hope,” said Ellazar. “Not that we were skeptical or didn’t believe in ourselves…but when we got that silver medal it was like, ‘Woah, we can do this.’ It was even reassurance from the country to look at us and see that we can compete with some of the best in Asia.”
As the senior infielder now shifts her focus to her final collegiate season, she still is in awe of what opportunities lie before her with the game of softball.
“I never thought I’d be able to play on the National Team, it was always a thought with my dad, we’ve always talked about it because there are Hawaii girls that have played on the team because there are a lot of Filipinos in Hawaii. But I never would have thought I’d be in the position to have a chance to go to the Olympics.”