The Ateneo Blue Eagles started well and finished stronger to hand Itakura Parts Philippines Corporation Nationals their first loss, 10-7, Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
Needing a strong start against an all-star squad, the Blue Eagles broke in the pitching of national team mainstay Vladi Eguia, and scored two runs in the first inning.
Javi Macasaet punched in a 2-RBI double to start the offensive barrage for the Blue Eagles, before the Nationals found the answer in the third inning to steal the lead at 3-2. Nonetheless, a six-run binge in the fourth to sixth innings finally put Ateneo in a position to close out.
Lead assistant coach Aids Bernardo shared that it was really their plan to start hot. “Yung usual plan lang namin is to stay [a]head. We have to maintain our confidence pa rin, and dapat yung palo namin tuluy-tuloy pa rin.”
Looking for insurance runs to seal their second straight win of the tournament, it was substitute Rod Bitong’s sacrifice fly to the right field that brought in three runs. IPPC also committed a fielding error in the process.
Ultimately, pitcher Nacho Lozano and the Ateneo defense closed it out in the ninth after retiring the last three batters.
When their own defenses were broken and IPPC scored, the Blue Eagles simply regrouped.
“We have to stay relaxed, kasi nga this team is a really good team. They knew how to come back and take advantage of any situation. Kaya kung makakakuha kami ng paraan, kunin namin,” Bernardo added.
With the win, Ateneo keep pace with the league-leading De La Salle University, as the Green Batters bagged their third straight win of the season, taking down the National University Bulldogs, 6-4, earlier in the day.
The Bulldogs scored four runs in the fourth inning to snag the lead at 4-2, but the Green Batters responded with a run. They then had three more runs in their turn at bat in the fifth and sixth innings respectively, to take the lead for good.
Senior pitcher Diego Lozano took care of business at the mound in the last two in innings, taking down NU’s last six batters, three on strikeouts.
In the final game, the Adamson University Soaring Falcons scored their first win, blasting the University of Santo Tomas Golden Sox, 15-9.
Ateneo and Adamson will have little time to celebrate as they face each other on Sunday, January 13, at 7:00am. NU then take on UP at 10:00am, while IPPC look to bounce back against UST to close out the day.