With five of their marquee stars graduating, the three-time defending UAAP Baseball champions Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles debuted a rookie-laden team to open their UAAP Season 78 campaign.
In their first game of the season, the rookies passed their first test with flying colors, in a 7-3 win over the Adamson University Soaring Falcons to cap the opening day festivities at the historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium in Manila City.
Adamson senior Laurence Ruiz shut out the high-powered Ateneo batting in the first two innings of the game, while on the offensive end, the batters from San Marcelino street took advantage of errors from the Ateneo fielders. A passed ball in the second inning gave Jerome Yenson a run to open up the scoring for Adamson. In the top of the third inning, Adamson junior Kenneth Badrina connected on a base hit to open the inning lead-off batter Gerard Riparip gained base due to an error by first baseman Ryon Tionloc. With the two Adamson players gaining prime scoring position, Ruiz popped a sacrifice fly to center field that paved the way for a Badrina run and a 2-0 lead.
The sleeping giant woke up at the bottom of the third inning, though, as Ateneo blasted a 4-run inning that altered the course of the game. Rookie Marquis Alindrogan, making his first bat in the UAAP Men’s division, connected with a base hit to open the bottom end of the 3rd. After a failed fielder’s choice and a tag out of Marco Mallari at first base, team captain Dio Remollo connected with a single that led to a Alindrogan run to put Ateneo on the board. With two outs, former UAAP Juniors MVP Gino Tantuico continued the Ateneo rally with a single that led to another run for Ateneo. The rally was capped by former Blue Eaglets catcher Javi Macasaet. The younger brother of Ateneo ace pitcher Paulo Macasaet popped a huge double that brought home Remollo and Tantuico that gave the Blue-and-White a 4-2 lead.
“When we were down by two runs, I knew we will be able to come back. The question was will we be able to hold them to just two runs,” Ateneo baseball program director Randy Dizer shared to Tiebreaker Times.
Led by the constant communication of catcher Dio Remollo and sophomore pitcher, RP team member Paulo Macasaet, the Ateneo defense frustrated the Adamson batters the rest of the way. On the other end, it was a showcase of the offensive prowess of the blue-chip Ateneo recruits. Javi Macasaet brought home another runner during the bottom of the fifth inning while Alindogan brought in another run after a passed ball to give Ateneo a 6-2 lead.
“Javi did well, Alindogan did well 3 for 4. Si Javi 2 for 3. So it’s there. I’m looking forward to Ryan, Igarashi, and Kai in the next few games. I’ve been telling everyone, Igarashi is the next Matt Laurel,” Dizer said about the plethora of first-year student-athletes in the team’s roster.
Even with a huge lead, the Ateneo coaches continued to push their players to go for base hit and to continue to push. “They’re used to practicing in Barangka, which is a small field, so they’re used to hitting home runs. But here [at Rizal], the field is bigger. So I kept pushing them to get base hits,” the program director shared. Dizer’s push was highlighted with Ateneo’s final run for the game at the 8th inning. Alindogan was able to gain base due to balls to open the bottom end of the inning. The team continued to push the rookie up until he was able to return home after a sacrifice fly by Rapho Balagtas.
The Falcons were able to gain a run at the top of the 9th inning after the elder Macasaet gave up his third and fourth hits after pitching the entire game. The run came from Mark Manaig, assisted by Melvin Rosita to end the game with a final score of 7-3.
“Siyempre it’s going to be hard,” Dizer said about the title defense this year. “There won’t be easy games. Earlier today UST defeated UP and NU defeated La Salle. It’s anybody’s ball game this season. La Salle is hungry to get the crown so it’s going to be really tough.”
Ace pitcher Paulo Macasaet ran the marathon, pitching all nine innings of the game. The sophomore was able to strikeout nine batters and only gave up four hits, 31B and 2B, for the entire game.
With Paulo Macasaet serving national duty in the next two to three games as he is in the lineup of the RP Team for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers, Dizer shared that he will divide pitching duties between Nacho Cojuangco, Miguel Dumlao, and the other pitchers during that span. “With our pitching rotation, it will be hard for us in the next three games since we won’t have Paulo. I told my pitchers ‘hahatiin natin yung next games. Two innings, three innings hahatiin namin para hindi maka-adjust yung kalaban.’”
“I told them [the batters] that we need to work hard to score to help the pitchers,” Dizer closed.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles (1-0) will open the second day of competition against the National University Bulldogs (1-0) on Sunday, February 7 at 7:00am while the Adamson Soaring Falcons (0-1) try to notch their first win for the season as they face the University of Santo Tomas Tiger Batters (1-0) later in the day.