Unlike their first-round encounter last February 24, the De La Salle University Green Batters made sure there would be no meltdowns this time around.
Behind overpowering performances from Diego Lozano and Iggy Escano, last season’s runners up needed just seven innings to dispose of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 16-5, Sunday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
This victory catapulted the Green Batters to the UAAP Season 81 Baseball Finals, as they own a 7-2 record. This is La Salle’s fifth finals appearance in six years.
This was an unexpected finish to the game that was billed as the battle of league-leaders, even to La Salle head coach Joseph Orillana.
“Combination ito ng good hitting, good pitching, and good defense. ‘Pag ginawa namin yun, ito lagi ang magiging resulta kasi yung skills nila nandun na pati mental toughness,” shared Orillana, who led the Green Batters back in Season 65.
“‘Pag nagsama-sama yun, napakalakas ng team na ito.”
During the second inning of the game, La Salle were able to load up the bases after Paulo Macasaet gave up a walk, an HP, and a passed ball. Angelo Tantuico and Paulo Salud were walked afterward that put La Salle up 2-0.
Boo Barandiaran then connected with a single that paved the way for two more runs. Waiting in the wings afterward was Escano, who slammed a home run – his second of the season – to cap the huge six-run inning.
This retired Macasaet from the mound. He was replaced by Miggy Angeles, who ended up pitching the rest of the game.
Though Ateneo were able to bring in a run each in the next three innings – a mini-run that was sparked by Gino Tantuico’s second homer of the season during the second inning, and was continued by Javi Macasaet – the Green Batters were able to take all the runs back plus a couple more.
Lozano would cap his spectacular performance with a two-run home run – yes, his second of the season as well – during the seventh inning. La Salle punched in five more runs to gain an insurmountable 11-run lead for the mercy rule.
Escano and Barandiaran had four RBIs in the contest, while Lozano added three. Lead-off batter Paolo Salud had two as well.
“Bukod sa hitting nila, yung leadership nila yung importante. Sila yung tinitingala ng lahat eh. Kumbaga sila yung magsisimula nung apoy para maglagalablab yung team at mag-init at makapunta sa finals,” shared Orillana.
Seven La Salle batters had at least two hits in the contest.
Besides La Salle’s hitting, Luis Minana also had an excellent outing on the mound, pitching all seven innings and giving up just six hits while fanning seven Ateneo batters.
With the loss, Ateneo (6-3) will have to defeat the University of Santo Tomas Golden Sox on Wednesday to secure the last Finals ticket. A loss and an Adamson (5-4) win over the NU Bulldogs later in the day will result in a playoff between the two squads.