It was 2015 when the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons last won in the first round of the UAAP Baseball tournament.
That losing streak and the season’s four-game slide has ended as rookie pitcher Gino Yang and the rest of the Diliman-based side took down the University of Santos Tomas Golden Sox, 7-1, to end their first round on a winning note, Sunday morning at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
After two scoreless innings from the Fighting Maroons, a huge third inning occurred as they produced four runs in the said frame.
In a two-out situation, rookie Karl Liwanagan started the scoring with a single off UST starting pitcher Mark Beronilla. This hit and the previous one from Kouichi Igarashi led to a pitching change for the Tigers with John Lipalam taking the mound.
The substitution proved costly as UP converted the pitches into hits. Phonso Balagtas was given a free pass to first off a hit by pitch, before last year’s captain, Gabby Yang’s base hit sent Liwanagan home. A series of smart base-running from the Maroons off a Mark Tuballas’ at-bat sent two more runs before Jerico Cagas also drove Tuballas into the plate for the 4-0 lead.
The Tigers then cut the deficit to three after they found a way to score in the fifth inning. Yang had a rough start in the said frame after giving up four straight balls leading to two walks for UST’s Vince Mangapis and Gio Martinez. Fortunately for the newbie Maroon, only one run was scored as Tuballas and Cagas did their job on defense, taking down Martinez on the ensuing play, even as Mangapis crossed home on an Israel Antonio’s sacrifice fly.
Jayrick Lirio and the rest of the Fighting Maroons were not yet done and padded on the lead in the following inning. The fourth-year outfielder’s hit scored two with Kouichi Igarashi and Roque Banzon, and eventually registered a run himself to peg the final score at 7-1.
Yang stood his ground against the UST batters in a no-relief stint taking only one earned run and dismissing nine of them in the nine innings of the match. The rookie and the rest of the squad also limited the Tigers to only three hits and stranded seven of them on the bases.
Head coach Anthony Dizer was visibly pleased of the Maroons’ win as he reminded them to minimize their errors in order to have a greater chance at a win. He also added, “They played good defense today. They got the signals right, yung sa palo, yung sa kanti, so they were able to convert them into runs.
“Andun na ‘yung confidence ng mga bata. Hopefully, this second round magtuluy-tuloy,” the grizzled tactician added.