The sight of King Archer Carlos Muñoz going to the mound strikes fear into the hearts of his opponents.
His fast ball pitches produce a thudding sound that resonates all throughout the stadium once it hits the catcher’s mitt. His quiet confidence alone can boost his teammates morale even when down by a huge margin.
With all the accolades he has received all throughout his young baseball career, including being the first pitcher in the defunct-Baseball Philippines to pitch a no-hitter and a Southeast Asian Game gold medal, one thing has eluded the Captain: a UAAP Championship.
Before coming into the fold, the De La Salle University Green Batters had been dead last in the six-team tournament back in Season 73. “I expected it from the beginning. Before I came in, we were last but we expected to compete every year,” Munoz shared.
After a fairly successful rookie year that saw the Green Batters finish third in the UAAP tournament, his sophomore year ended with his team finishing in fifth place with a 3-7 slate. “First year we were third place, not bad. Second year we were fifth,” he reflected. “It just didn’t click during our second year.”
Over the next two years, Muñoz’ reputation as one of the most lethal closers in the league grew and grew. Every game, one could hear murmurs from the opposing team praising the speed and precision of his pitches. Just him taking over the mound to close-out games brought a different aura to the match. The 22-year-old admitted that he is aware of the reputation he has built but tends to not succumb to the pressure that comes with it. “No pressure at all. I just enjoy it because that’s what I do,” he said.
Muñoz and the Green Batters had been able to make two straight Finals appearances during his junior and senior years but could not get over the hump of facing rivals Ateneo de Manila University. The Blue Eagles, led by their Big Five, swept the Green Batters for two straight years en route to the Katipunan-based squad winning a rare “three-peat”. Even with a deep team that included greats like Bastie Uichico, Dino Imperial, and Carlos Laurel, the combined experience of the Blue Eagles simply outmatched them.
“We weren’t just ready,” he shared. “Ateneo had the experience in the Finals a year before. We were not just ready during that time.”
The inexperience showed during the Game Two of the UAAP Season 77 Finals. With the game tied at 1-all at the bottom of the sixth inning with runners in prime scoring position and just one out, a flyball by Ryon Tionloc to right field paved the way for the two runners to run home. As the La Salle defense moved down, Muñoz made the cut near home plate. However, the then-fourth year senior made an errant throw to catcher Paul Naguit who was away from the home plate, which led the two runners to punch-in the game-winning runs.
Muñoz admitted that he had tried to forget about that error but had always been reminded about it by his friends. “I thought about it once a year ago but my friend’s always remind me about it,” he said. “But (generally) I really don’t think about it. It’s baseball and a lot of weirder things can happen.”
Entering his final year, the Green Batters were the consensus favorites to win this year’s crown. Moreover, they themselves want to win it, and badly. Muñoz himself skipped national team duties just to focus on his last shot of winning a UAAP crown.
“This year, we’re much deeper overall. We have a deeper pitching staff, we have excellent pitchers this year. Our coaching staff also. We included Noli (Luigi Nolasco). Everyone’s playing their role this year.”
However, disaster struck for the Captain during their third game of the season. In a blowout win against the UP Fighting Maroons, Captain Carl made a dive to second base but he landed shoulder first. Muñoz was out of commission up until the latter part of the second round because of it.
But still, the La Salle skipper continued to provide leadership to his team even from the bench. “Si Carlos, siya ang leader namin,” La Salle head coach Joseph Orillana said about their team captain. “Kahit nasa bench siya, he cheers up his team and binibigay niya yung insights niya sa teammates niya, lalo na sa mga rookies namin.”
“At first it was really hard since it’s my final year but they were playing really well,” Munoz said about missing almost the entire regular season. “If they were not playing well, I’d be really pissed but they played well and it really helped a lot with my recovery.”
Muñoz’s return to the mound was spectacular, to say the least. In their game against Adamson University that booked their place in the Finals, “The Closer” struck out eight batters in a great display of pitching accuracy in a 4-1 demolition.
In the Game One of the Finals, Muñoz played right field and helped lead his team to an 8-3 win to gain the 1-0 advantage in the series. He was 1 for 3 at-bat, a triple during the 7th inning, and was able to punch in two runs and an RBI for the game.
“Everyone is playing their roles. I don’t care who I am, I have to play my role too,” he said about sophomore Boo Barandiaran and rookie Diego Lozano pitching for the Green Batters during Game One.
Game Two saw both squads slug it out in an instant classic. During the 8th inning though the baseball gods played a cruel joke once more.
With the Green Batters holding an 11-9 lead over the defending champions, Muñoz, playing right field again, was about to make a catch of a popup fly by Ryon Tionloc. As Captain Carl was about to make the catch, he suddenly crumbled to the field, holding his left knee.
“I stretched then I heard something pop,” he said after the game. “I don’t know if it’s a cramp or if I completely tore it out.”
“The Closer” was supposed to close-out the game for the Green Batters but instead he was stretchered out of the game. Boo Barandiaran was able to hold off the Blue Eagles in the final inning to end the school’s 13 year title drought.
Even with the captain down, the next great La Salle pitchers, Diego Lozano, Arvin Herrera, and Barandiaran, steered the ship to the right direction. “Everyone did it for themselves. They did not do this for me, we did it for ourselves,” Muñoz said. Little did he know that his teammates had done it for him.
“They wanted us to win but we wanted to win this for Carl,” Finals MVP Boo Barandiaran said.
After giving five years of his life to La Salle, Carlos Muñoz, now a UAAP Champion, knows that he leaves the Green Batters in good hands with the likes of Diego Lozano, Boo Barandiaran, Kiko Gesmundo, and Arvin Herrera ready to step up and be La Salle’s next great closer.
Ateneo defends WBSC Hong Kong Open crown
Defending UAAP Baseball champions Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles are once again off to the races in their preparation for the upcoming season.
For the second straight year, the blue batters of Ateneo took home the WBSC Hong Kong International Baseball Open championship in the club division after ripping Sydney University, 10-4, Sunday afternoon at Lion Rock Park Baseball Field in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
“It feels great to be back. It’s always good to come here and play,” said Ateneo catcher Dino Altomonte. “We’re looking to do it again next year.”
Besides taking home the crown once more, the Blue Eagles racked up the majority of the individual awards.
Marco Mallari took home the Most Valuable Player plum. The third-year Blue Eagle played in all four games, going an efficient 9-of-14 at-bat and punching in eight runs.
Fourth-year and UAAP Season 79 Finals MVP Paulo Macasaet was named as the Best Pitcher of the tournament, finishing with a clean 2-0 slate. The national team standout struck out 11 batters while only allowing six runs when he’s on the mound.
Filipino-American Marquis Alindogan had the most hits and most stolen bases in the four-team meet. Alindogan finished with six stolen bases.
With the win, coach Randy Dizer was named as the Best Coach.
Ateneo started off its campaign the way it started it with a 12-7 win over Sydney University last December 14. The Blue Eagles were able to edge out Hong Kong Blue the next day, 9-6, before lambasting Lanzhou New Way, 12-3.
Last year’s tourney only had one division.
Carlos Munoz has 4 RBI as Philippine pitchers shutout Hong Kong to advance to semis
Hope was not lost when the Philippines was outclassed by powerhouse South Korea last Wednesday as the Philippine batters were given a crack at the last semifinals spot in a do-or-die game Wednesday afternoon.
Carlos Munoz and the Philippines did not waste this opportunity, pinning Hong Kong, 10-0 abb. 7th, to qualify for the next round of the XXVIII BFA Asian Baseball Championship at the Tien-Mou Stadium in Taiwan.
At the end of the elimination round, the Philippines finished with a 1-2 slate in Group A while Hong Kong sported a 1-1 record in a three-team Group B. China, who was supposed to be in Group B, backed out at the last minute.
Munoz, a product of the La Salle baseball program, powered the Philippines’ offense, finishing with 4 RBIs.
And Munoz provided the spark for the Philippines, popping a double that brought home Aids Bernardo and Diego Lozano in the opening inning while driving in a run of his own for an early 3-0 lead.
The Philippine pitchers were also superb on the mound, allowing just four hits and leaving all runners stranded.
With the Philippines scoring two runs and one more in the fourth and sixth innings respectively, the young team went for the kill in the seventh inning.
Javi Macasaet brought home Joennard Pareja with a triple to start the rally. Macasaet was then brought home by Steven Manaig while a 2RBI single by Jonaidsash Ponce paved the way for a Manaig run and Bernardo’s third run of the game.
Bernardo finished with three runs, going 2-for-4 at-bat, while incoming Ateneo sophomore Javi Macasaet added two more runs.
With the win, the Philippines booked another date with Chinese-Taipei to open the “super round”. The fourth-ranked team in the world and host defeated the young guns of the republic, 12-2, on opening day.
Joennard Pareja’s 2 RBI single lifts Philippines to maiden win
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After a gallant 2-12 loss to fourth-ranked team in the world Chinese-Taipei on opening day, a motivated Philippine squad powered its way to an 8-5 win over Sri Lanka, Tuesday evening at the Tien-Mou Stadium in Taiwan.
The win lifted the Philippines to the win column in Group A of the XXVIII BFA Asian Baseball Championship with a 1-1 slate, tied with number three-ranked team South Korea. Sri Lanka dropped to 0-2, while Chinese-Taipei leads the pack with an unblemished 2-0 record.
Adamson’s Steven Manaig was spectacular in the game, going 4-for-4 at-bat to score a run and punch in an RBI. But it was former Baseball Philippines MVP Joennard Pareja who iced the win for the Philippines.
With Sri Lanka knotting the game at 5-all entering the bottom of the eighth inning, Pareja singled to pave the way for runs from Diego Lozano and Jonnash Ponce. Another run courtesy of Adamson’s Erwin Bosito gave closer Junmar Diarao of NU a breather to close out the contest.
Sri Lanka gained the early lead in the game after scoring three runs in the second inning. Ponce then slammed a three-run home run at the bottom of the third inning to square things up.
A sacrifice fly by Carlos Munoz brought home Manaig in the fourth inning to give the Philippines the lead, while Manaig was able to bring home Bosito in the seventh inning to extend the lead to two.
Starting pitcher Paulo Macasaet pitched 7 1/3 innings throwing 115 pitches with nine strikeouts.
The Philippines plays its final game of the elimination round tonight against South Korea at 6:30pm. The winner will advance to the semifinals, while the loser drops to the classification phase.
Philippines’ young guns banner team for Asian Baseball Championship
Though the process of developing a world-class baseball national team will take some time, the Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) is making sure that the program will have a proper launching point, as the association will be sending over a team that is stacked with homegrown talent to the 28th Baseball Federation of Asia (BFA) Asian Baseball Championship from October 2 to 8 in New Taipei City, Taiwan.
“First of all, this is a long process, but we have to start it. With my involvement with PABA this year, one of our objectives was to comply with our international commitments, lalo na sa BFA,” said PABA secretary general Chito Loyzaga.
“Yun lang muna target namin this year, to send a signal that we are here, alive and kicking, and that we are going to participate.”
Beside its agenda of complying with Asia’s international federation for baseball, PABA is also making sure that the products of the Philippines’ grassroots baseball program will be given international exposure, far from their past initiative of calling back Filipino-foreigners to compose the national team.
The Philippine team, which has an average age of 22 years old, will be composed of players that are competing in the UAAP baseball tournament.
Representing defending champions Ateneo de Manila University are reigning UAAP Season 79 Finals MVP Paulo Macasaet (P), catcher Dino Altomonte, and infielders Javi Macasaet (2B) and Marco Mallari (RF). Also returning for national duty is shortstop Aids Bernardo, who last campaigned for the country during the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers.
The De La Salle University will be sending over reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player Iggy Escano (1B), Diego Lozano (1B, P), sophomore Geof Magsadia (LF), senior Kiko Gesmundo (3B, P), and alumnus Carlos Munoz (RF, P). The trio of Jerome Yenson (P), Erwin Bosito (CF), and Steven Manaig (C) are the Adamson University’s representatives, while Alfredo de Guzman (C) and Clarence Caasalan (1B) of the National University made the team as well. Pitchers Ron dela Cruz and lefty Lesmar Ventura, both of whom were instrumental in the silver medal finish of the University of Santo Tomas last season, will play pivotal roles for the Philippines’ bullpen.
“It’s a young team. I heard that the average age is 22 years old. We are happy to see how they will perform,” added Loyzaga.
Providing leadership to the young team are veterans Jarus Inobio (LF), Joennard Pareja (2B), Jennald Pareja (SS), Jonash Ponce (CF), Jon-Jon Robles (P), and Romeo Jasmin (P).
NU softball team head coach Egay delos Reyes will serve as the team’s manager. UST head coach and legend Jeffrey Santiago, Adamson great Orlando Binarao, and champion coach Joseph Orillana of La Salle will compose the team’s staff.
Not much is expected from this team in the competition, which also features world-ranked teams Japan, South Korea, and Chinese-Taipei. But Loyzaga shared to the team that the ultimate goal is to earn the respect of the region.
“I told the boys na, ‘This is the top tournament in Asia and that you will face the top teams in the continent, including three of the top four teams in the world. Again, I am also an athlete like you, I always want to win but winning is not everything. If we don’t win on the field, I hope all of you earn their respect as Filipino athletes and as the national team.’,” he said.
The Philippines is part of Group A in the preliminary round together with hosts and fourth-ranked team in the world Chinese-Taipei (Monday, 6:30pm); Sri Lanka (Tuesday, 6:30pm); and third-ranked team in the world South Korea (Wednesday, 6:30pm).
The top two teams in the two groups will advance to the semifinals, while the bottom four will figure in placement matches.
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