Last season, the Ateneo Blue Eagles were riding high with a 4-1 record to end the first round. However, in their sixth game of the season, they fell prey to the UP Fighting Maroons — a team that was in the midst of a 19-game losing streak.
Ateneo did not make the finals in the UAAP Season 80 Baseball Tournament.
Not leaving anything to chance, the league-leading Blue Eagles made sure to pound the Fighting Maroons, picking up the most lopsided win of the season, 23-7 abb. seventh inning, Wednesday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
“UP was the team that took us out of contention last year. Big blow yun sa amin,” recalled Ateneo head coach Bocc Bernardo about the loss that happened 378 days ago. “I told them that we cannot commit the same mistake.
“The same message that I told them last game is the difference between good teams and great teams. Great teams know how to win and get the job done. I believe we are a great team.”
This time around, it was the bottom of Ateneo’s batting order that delivered for the Blue Eagles.
After picking up two runs to open the game due to walks, second baseman Kiko Andaya provided Ateneo’s first hit, a double, in the next inning.
UP pitcher Allen Mercado would have no answer for the overwhelming Ateneo offense, giving up eight runs to turn the game into a blowout immediately. Capping the run was a two-RBI double by Andaya.
“They are always capable. Ang problem lang talaga is confidence. The mind games get them out of it. Today, they were confident and gave us the spark. Their first hit gave us the first runs of the game,” Bernardo said about the bottom of his order.
The Blue Eagles would continue to punish the Fighting Maroons later on, connecting on 14 more hits that led to 13 runs in the next four innings.
Gio Salvattiera, Ateneo’s eighth batter, went 2-of-3 at-bat for an RBI and two runs.
“They are important for us since they set up the top of our order. They are quick also. Gio who has not played that much for us, is a good spark off the bench,” Bernardo remarked about the senior infielder.
Graduating co-captain Radito Banzon had a game-high three hits as well for two RBIs.
On the mound, rookie Luis Benedicto started the game — his first-ever start. In 1 and 2/3 innings, he gave up four hits that paved the way for three runs. He had two strikeouts.
“It’s a rookie thing. Kinabahan yan for sure. He knows his role sa team. But he also needs to have confidence na everytime he starts or be a reliever, he needs to deliver. Ang mindset talaga namin sa kanya is a good reliever. We need to build his confidence,” shared Bernardo, who was a former catcher for the Blue Eagles.
Nico Lozano was adjudged as the wining pitcher of the contest.
Ateneo goes up to 5-1 with the victory and will next face the Adamson Soaring Falcons on Sunday, March 10 at 1:00pm.
UP, who fell to 1-5 on the other hand, takes on UST on the same day at 7:00am.