As the dust settled inside the historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium, the two protagonists from the UAAP Season 80 Baseball tournament were the last two teams standing.
Defending UAAP champions Adamson Soaring Falcons and the Philippine Baseball League’s top-seeded team De La Salle Green Batters will square off for the league’s first-ever championship on Sunday.
The winner-take-all finale takes place on Sunday, February 3, at 12:00nn.
But Adamson needed a miracle in the diamond to make it to the final. They rallied with a ninth-inning surge to boot out the second-seed Itakura Parts Philippines Corporation Nationals, 10-9.
Behind a huge seven run-7th inning, IPPC – a team composed of UAAP greats – held an imposing 9-3 lead heading into the final frame.
“Simula pa lang, sabi ko sa kanila na yung IPPC, kahit all-star sila, walang training ‘yan eh. Kailangan namin sila sabayan sa paluan,” recalled Adamson head coach Orlando Binarao. “‘Yun ang nangyari nung last two innings. ‘Yung pitchers nila bumigay kaya kami nakahabol.”
After pitching three innings, National Team stalwart Darwin Dela Calzada caved at the start of the 9th inning. He gave up three hits – a two-RBI double courtesy of outfielder Christian Maigue and another hit by Lexter Carandang.
Last season’s MVP Jerome Yenson tried to hold off his former squad but gave up back-to-back walks. It did not help that a fielding error allowed one more run to be punched in to cut the deficit down to just three runs.
With no warm-up, Philippine ace Vladi Eguia was called up to the mound. It resulted in disaster for the Nationals, since a base hit courtesy of Kyle Villafana brought the tying run, while Villafana would later be brought home by Bryan Castillo for the go-ahead run.
Carandang and the Adamson defense held on to close out the game, including a highlight catch by third baseman Gerald Riparip off a Jarus Inobio foul ball that went way left.
Meanwhile, La Salle also had to work to pick up their seventh straight win and punch their ticket to the finale.
Former UAAP MVP Iggy Escano and Anton Rosas linked up in a sixth-inning rally to eliminate the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 11-8.
Down 7-3, the Green Batters blasted Ateneo with a six-run, five-hit 6th inning that saw Escano blast a two-RBI triple followed by a two-run double from Rosas.
“Hindi ako naging resulta kanina. Nagbibilang sila kanina na plus-three na lang, hanggang bumaba yung lead,” lamented Green Batters chief tactician Joseph Orillana. “Ayoko sila masanay ng ganun. Tapos sa huli pa lang maghahabol. Mas maganda kung bugbugan kagad.”
Facing each other once again for all the marbles, both Orillana and Binarao will use the finale as their litmus test to see where they are heading into the UAAP season.
“Hindi naman gigil. Same approach pa rin kami,” shared Orillana, who was the first baseman for IPPC in the semis. “Yung aggressiveness namin at winning attitude pa rin yung importante for tomorrow.”
“Sobrang excited kami. UAAP Finals rematch ito eh. Maganda kasi matatancha namin kung nasan na kami bago pa mag-UAAP,” added Binarao as the Soaring Falcons lost to the Green Batters on opening day, 0-11.
Opening the final day of the PBL’s first conference is the bronze medal match between IPPC and Ateneo. Game begins at 8:00am.
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