Sunday 14th February, Logrono
TITIN III – PASCUAL beat SARALEGI – APRAIZ 22-14
Sunday night was an emotional one for the Riojan pelota fan. Nominally, the main match on the bill at Adarraga was the championship game, featuring Titin III, their most famous son, but the curtain raiser starred another pelotari from the region, Miguel Capellan, in his last professional match. Fittingly, ‘Cape’ went out victorious, with an easy win over Apezetxea and Goni III, aided ably by Eulate. In a touching tribute, Capellan was showered with gifts and mementos to mark the end of a career which has spanned over eighteen years. He departed, finally, swathed in the flag of Rioja, and the local crowd were primed to perfection to shout their beloved Titin to victory.
Nobody gave Ekaitz Saralegi and Alexis Apraiz a hope in the run up to the main match. They formed the couple which had originally featured Asier Olaizola and Patxi Ruiz, both currently out of action and there naturally seemed a makeshift air about their partnership; most believed them ripe for a trouncing. As predicted, they succumbed to the greater force of Titin and Pascual but they came to Adarraga for a fight, and a fight they delivered. To their great credit, the underdogs went for their shots with determination and their spirit often paid dividends. Between them they scored twelve winners, three more than their opponents managed. Saralegi showed in the second point that he was not there to make up numbers with some scrapping defence followed by a txoko winner. It was a shot he used to good effect throughout the game and he also demonstrated his ability to go crosscourt, encapsulated in his lightning bolt of an airez on 3-6. Apraiz also got in on the act, pulling off an excellent rebote, much to the chagrin of Pascual, on his way to three outright winners in the match. However, for every winner they scored there was a mistake and it was their inconsistency which put them out of the running. In the early part of the game, their errors gave Titin and Pascual a platform which they never surrendered. Some of these errors were the fruit of too much ambition, such as Saralegi’s three missed gantxos in the first half of the match, but some were wild and careless. Apraiz was especially guilty of the latter at times, showing misdirection and inaccurate timing once too often.
Titin and Pascual, in contrast to their rivals, finished the match almost error free, the one indiscretion coming from Titin in the third point. Pascual in particular was exemplary. In the very early exchanges, Apraiz looked to have his number but the man from Abarzuza proved to have an extra gear. He was particularly effective in fielding balls which dipped into the left hand wall and in the length department, only Apraiz’s rebote foxed him all night. He proved an excellent support for Titin, who although not on his best form, had the better of Saralegi by some margin.
Saralegi and Apraiz are realistically out of the running for a semi final birth, with one win out of six games. It remains to be seen which incarnation of this pair will take to the fronton over the next two weeks, in which they will face Gonzalez-Laskurain and Xala-Zubieta. Pascual and local hero Titin have one foot in the last four, needing only one point to make their place secure. They will in all likelihood start as favourites in their remaining matches, against Bengoetxea VI-Beloki and Berasaluze VIII-Begino. All in all, this was a good night to be a Riojan.
Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-2, 2-2, 2-3, 6-3, 6-4, 8-4, 8-5, 9-5, 9-7, 13-7, 13-8, 17-8, 17-9, 18-9, 18-10, 19-10, 19-14, 22-14
Image from: Rioja Deporte