Former De La Salle University Green Batter Carlos Muñoz played like he was never gone from the game last weekend.
Behind the two stalwarts, the Katayama Baseball Academy Stars trashed the young Rizal Technological University Thunder in just five innings, 13-0, during the opening weekend of the 2019 Philippine Baseball League Open Conference.
“I made the team because I wanted to give an opportunity to the players who graduated from the UAAP,” said KBA head coach Keiji Katayama.
In his very first at-bat after a year-long absence from the game, right fielder Muñoz slammed a deep home run to right field for a quick 2-0 lead.
“I’m happy to have a baseball team with Carlos, Matt, and SJ [San Juan]. I hope they return to the game because they still have a chance to make it to the National Team,” added Katayama about having the trio in this tournament organized by the Philippine Amateur Baseball Association, with the support of the Philippine Sports Commission.
Muñoz had three RBIs in the game, while ex-UP shortstop Mark Tuballas and former Adamson third baseman Kyle Villafana had three and two RBIs, respectively.
UAAP Season 81 Finals MVP Kiko Gesmundo led the pitching staff with three hitless innings while striking out four batters.
After their quick game, KBA also played an exhibition contest against South Korean weekend warriors from the Jeju Province.
“It’s very, very nice because this is a goodwill game,” said PABA secretary-general Pepe Muñoz. “At first I was unsure about it because we are very busy in trying to fix baseball in the Philippines. Secondly, we don’t know them at all.
“When they showed up, they were very good. We were hoping to give them a series of games but time would not allow it,” he added.
Also last Saturday, Jerome Ponce connected on the first home run of the conference that led the way for the Thunder’s 8-2 whipping of the Philippine Air Force.
National team standout Aids Bernardo pitched all seven innings for Thunder, allowing just seven hits while fanning five Lawins.
Air Force bounced back a day later with an 8-3 victory over the UST Golden Sox.
In other games, the Adamson Soaring Falcons opened the conference by eking out a 3-1 win over the NU Bulldogs; the IPPC Nationals dominated the Ateneo Blue Eagles 7-3; and the DLSU Green Batters escaping RTU-Alums 11-6.
On Saturday, the UP Fighting Maroons open their campaign against RTU-Alum at 8:00 am. This will be followed by Thunder taking on UST and NU facing RTU.