|DLSU (8-2), 1st||7||2||0||3||1||0||0||1||0||14||11||4|
|ADMU (7-3), 2nd||4||2||1||0||2||0||0||1||2||12||18||9|
The DLSU Green Batters were still in danger of losing a top-two spot if they lost this rivalry game, the continuation of the suspended game against the UP Fighting Maroons, and the playoff game that would have followed it.
In the quest for their first UAAP Senior’s crown, Dino Imperial, Carly Laurel, and Carlos Muñoz, the seniors of the DLSU Green Batters, did not allow any more setbacks in fending off a late Ateneo rally and eventually booked their spot in the finals last Thursday, at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
The Ateneo de Manila University started the game with rookie Radito Banzon to replace senior Iñigo Untalan as he was nursing an injury. Moreover, former UAAP MVP and best pitcher Andy Tan was supposed to start the game but arrived late, which let sophomore Nacho Cojuangco pitch in his place.
In the top half of the first inning, sophomore standout Nacho Cojuangco struggled with the bomb squad of the DLSU Green Batters. Lead-off batter Paolo Salud was able to pop a single to open the game. Carly Laurel then reached base after a fielder’s choice, while a sacrifice bunt by Gabriel Pineda gave Salud and Laurel prime real estate. Carlos Muñoz and Dino Imperial were walked to give DLSU their first run of the day and still have the bases loaded. A costly throwing error by ADMU co-captain Matt Laurel, gave DLSU two more runs while gaining the corners with Imperial at third and Boo Barandiaran at first. Cojuangco then walked Cholo Dominguez and Paul Naguit that gave DLSU another run with just one out. Francis “Hashi” Hashimoto then popped a huge double to left field that led to runs by Barandiaran and Dominguez. At that point, the DLSU offense had already rotated their entire batting order and efficiently scored six runs. Another costly error, this time at first base, led to a Naguit run. The DLSU rally ended with the ouster of Hashi at home and a caught fly by Laurel.
The lanky rookie from De La Salle-Zobel, Jonathan Park, was tasked to anchor the DLSU defense against the defending champions. ADMU lead-off batter and fifth-year player Adriene Bernardo was hit by a pitch while Radito Banzon was able to secure base off an error by DLSU’s second baseman to immediately give ADMU two bases. The bases were loaded after the current best slugger in the tournament, Matt Laurel, was walked due to balls. A sacrifice fly by Dio Remollo sparked an Ateneo rally that scored Bernardo and Banzon while Matt Laurel scored a run of his own off of a Ryon Tionloc double. Finally, Renzo “Chong” Ramos capped off the ADMU rally with an RBI single to cut the DLSU lead to just three runs to end the opening salvo.
Dino Imperial had an impressive second inning in assisting on a Carlos Muñoz run after connecting with a double, and also picking-up a run of his own coming from a Boo Barandiaran RBI, to extend the DLSU lead to 9-4 midway through the second inning. The blue and white squad then rallied back. League leader in RBIs, Matt Laurel, popped a single in the second inning that led to an Adriene Bernardo run. Matt Laurel also picked up a run of his own coming from a Ryon Tionloc RBI in that same inning.
After getting warmed up at the Ateneo bullpen, Andy Tan was all set to go and replaced Nacho Cojuangco at the top of the third inning. After a fly out of the first two batters, Carly Laurel was able to gain third base after an error while the other corner was secured by Gabriel Pineda. Fortunately for the ADMU fielder, a fly out by Carlos Muñoz left the two runners stranded. The ADMU offense managed to cut the lead to just two runs, the smallest lead of the game, at the third inning after an RBI single by Banzon that led to a Ramos run. Inning ended with DLSU on top by just two runs 9-7.
Even with Andy Tan pitching against the DLSU offense, the momentum was clearly in favor of the team known as the Bomb Squad in the fourth inning. On the fourth inning they were able to make three runs, pushing the DLSU lead to 12-7 highlighted by back-to-back RBI singles from Hashimoto and Paolo Salud. Then at the top of the fifth inning, DLSU would go up by six runs courtesy of a Barandiaran sacrifice that led to an Imperial run.
Senior and team captain Carly Laurel was then designated as pitcher in the middle innings, replacing De La Salle Zobel rookie Jonathan Park. With two outs at the bottom of the fifth, rookie Radito Banzon popped a 2 RBI double that led to runs by Chip Esguerra and Rapho Balagtas. The fifth inning ended with DLSU still up 13-9.
After giving up four runs during the first two innings he pitched, Andy Tan, already getting a feel of the opposing batters, only gave up a single run at the eighth inning from Boo Barandiaran. Chong Ramos redeemed that run at the bottom of the eighth. Going into the final regulation inning, the defending champions were still down 14-10.
Andy Tan and the Ateneo defense shut out the DLSU offense at the top of the ninth highlighted by a huge 1-2-3 double play to close the top half of the ninth. Coach Joseph Orillana then subbed out Carly Laurel for a hardly warmed-up Carlos Muñoz. This was just the second game Muñoz pitched this season, the last one being the ADMU-DLSU game of the first round.
After Adriene Bernardo was tagged out at second base for first out, Radito Banzon and Matt Laurel were able to obtain first and second base respectively. Luis Puno was then tasked to pinch run for Laurel. Then, Dio Remollo hit a single to load all the bases with just one out. Next batter Ryon Tionloc was then walked due to balls to score Banzon. After a strike-out of Lorenzo Ramos for second out, Luis Puno slid in a run off of a passed ball to cut the DLSU lead to just two runs. Chip Esguerra was intentionally walked to again load the bases for the defending champions. Supposed next batter John Altomonte was subbed out for senior Iñigo Untalan. However, Untalan’s fly was caught at first base to seal the game for the Green Batters.
After leading the team standing for the majority of the season, the ADMU Blue Batters will go into the finals with a three-game losing streak. The majority of the team were in somber spirits postgame, but team Captain Matthew Laurel tried to console them. There’s no time to sulk for the team as the finals match is scheduled to take place in seven days.
After the game, we had a chance to talk to ADMU’s ace pitcher Andy Tan. “Big Game” Andy told us that the team became relaxed after the first round. “Some of us were medyo laxed because once we knew we were 7 and 0, we knew we were in the finals. Also, some of our players pa got injured like Matt [Laurel] and [Iñigo] Untalan pulled their hamstrings. But those aren’t really excuses to lose games.”
“Coming into this game, we really wanted to win this game and especially get our rhythm for the finals. Of course, when you play La Salle, you always want to beat La Salle,”the former MVP added.
During the first two losses of the team, the ADMU hitting was clearly missing. The team had a season-low five hits during their game against UST. “In training yesterday, we were working on our hitting because apparently that’s what we lacked the past few games but today we had three guys with three hits so that’s already nine. What we have to work on for the finals is our defense because a lot of the runs scored are unearned and through our errors,” Tan concluded.
DLSU senior Dino Imperial had an excellent outing, his best this season, in having three runs and two RBIs.
Dino Imperial told us that the feeling of having another shot at winning their first senior’s crown in 12 years was a euphoric feeling. “We finally know that we can beat Ateneo,” added Imperial.
“Looking back, we started the season really rough. We had two losses in the first round. We worked harder at practice which resulted to us sweeping the second round.” Moreover, with seven rookies in the line-up with four coming from La Salle schools, Imperial told us that the integration of the rookies is a testament to the excellent La Salle Baseball program.
After beating the UP Fighting Maroons last Sunday with a score of 9-4, the Green Batters will enter Game 1 as the home team (bottom innings) and, if necessary, also Game 3. The DLSU Green Batters and the ADMU Blue Batters will have a rematch reminiscent of the UAAP Season 76 finals this Thursday, March 5 at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.