A year after dropping the UAAP Finals against rivals Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, the De La Salle University Green Batters needed this one to prove to themselves that they can beat the three-time defending champions.
In the highly-anticipated first round encounter between two of the perennial favorites to win it all, the batters from Taft Avenue bombarded their archnemesis with 19 hits in a 14-7 win to give La Salle a share of the top spot with Ateneo to enter the second round.
Sophomore pitcher Paulo Macasaet started his second game of the season for the Blue Eagles. It was a forgettable outing for the 20 year old though as his timing was way off stemming from his return game last Sunday against the UP Fighting Maroons.
An error at third base, a walk, and a hit by pitch started the game for the Ateneo defense that immediately loaded up the bases for the Green Batters. A single by fourth batter Ignacio Escano brought home Francis Salud and Diego Lozano to give La Salle an early 2-0 lead to start the game.
Macaset continued to struggle with his timing in the second inning in giving up too many walks and again accidentally hitting sophomore Kiko Gesmundo with a pitch for the second time in the game. With two outs and the bases loaded once more, Jonathan Park connected with a powerful double to center field to punch in runs for Franco Hashimoto and Lozano to further extend La Salle’s lead.
After the defending champions gained their first run of the game courtesy of Kai Furusawa at the botom of the second inning, the Green Batters were able to punch in two more runs in the fourth inning. La Salle was able to accomplish a two-out rally as Park continued to have Macasaet’s number in connecting with a double to bring home Gesmundo once more while a passed ball led to an Escano run. The struggles on the mound for Ateneo’s ace pitcher forced the Ateneo bullpen to retire Macasaet and was replaced by third year pitcher Miguel Dumlao.
“Anytime, hindi naman madedepensahan lagi ng pitcher lang. Kung ano mang chance na makakakuha ng out through palo ng kalaban, gawin natin para matulungan yung pitchers,” La Salle head coach Joseph Orillana said about the active fielding his team displayed in the game. “At sa opensa, scoran dapat ng malaki para mabaon yung kalaban.”
“Yung errors kasi darating din yan pero mas maganda na pagdumating yun malaki na score natin.”
Filipino-Japanese rookie Kai Furusawa and Ateneo’s power hitter Chong Ramos were able to gain the two runs back in the fourth inning. Controversy arose in the bottom of the fifth inning though. With two strikes, lead-off batter Radito Banzon was initially called for a third strike by the head umpire. In a split second though, the official suddenly changed the call to an uncaught third strike that led to confusion for DLSU catcher Paul Naguit and gave Banzon first base. The sudden change in call created confusion as the game was stopped for five minutes to discuss the matter. However, the decision stood resulting to team manager Pepe Munoz placing the game under protest.
In the sixth inning though, errors came into play that forced last season’s best pitcher Boo Barandiaran to dig deep. With two bases loaded for the Blue side and two outs, Filipino-American Marquis Alindogan popped a huge double to center field that brought in the tandem of Ramos and Ryan Hilario to cut the La Salle lead to just a solitary run, 6-5. With the top of the Ateneo batting order coming up, Barandiaran displayed great poise as he fanned lead-off batter Radito Banzon to halt the Ateneo rally.
After both Dumlao and Barandiaran held their respective opponents scoreless in the 7th inning, the La Salle bomb squad took advantage of a fatigued Dumlao in the 8th innning. After lead-off batter Salud was knocked-off due to a fielders choice that gave Lozano base, a walk of Gesmundo followed that placed Ateneo in a dangerous position once more.
The pressure of playing in his first Ateneo-La Salle game did not bother rookie Escano as he calmly popped his second double of the game after the second pitch to register two more runs for the Green-and-White. The Blue Eagles were able to flyout the next batter for two outs. However, the batting of the Green Batters just gained too much momentum that led to another two-out rally.
A single by Cholo Dominguez and a walk of Paul Naguit again loaded the bases. Rookie Josh Salinas then joined in the party in connecting with a double that brought Escano and Dominguez home for an imposing 10-5 lead. The Green Batters were able to close out the inning with three more runs highlighted by a triple by Hashimoto to cap a 7-run inning much to the delight of the pro-La Salle gallery in attendance.
Boo Barandiaran was retired on the mound after pitching the first eight innings . In pitching against 36 batters and at least 140 pitches, he was able to strikeout eight batters and was able to limit the high-powered Ateneo offense to just seven runs.
The Green Batters were able to gain one more run in the final inning while the reserves of the Blue Eagles registered two more runs that proved to be too late against reserve pitcher rookie Arvin Herrera.
“Ang sabi ko sa kanila is to get the first possession. Huwag nila intindihan yung score para mag number one, kelangan lang ipanalo. Pag nakuha natin to high morale din tayo sa second round,” Orillana told Tiebreaker Times after the morale-boosting win. “At least natapos na yung doubt niyo na pag-Ateneo may pressure ka. Ngayon, pakita niyo sa kanila na kahit sila kalaban walang pressure.”
Moreover, the rookies and sophomores were the ones who carried the Green Batters in the absence of King Archer Carlos Munoz, who missed his third straight game. Rookie from LSGH Escano was 3 of 6 at bat. He had two singles and a double that led to four RBI’s and three runs of his own. Fellow rookie Diego Lozano was able to register three runs as well.
For the sophomores, Kiko Gesmundo, still not a 100% due to a nagging injury, had a double and three runs. The revalation of the game though was Jonathan Park, who played his best game of his young UAAP career, in going 2 of 5. He had two singles and a double that led to three RBIs and two runs.
“Sabi ko sa kanila, wala ng rookies at sophomore dito. Pag maglaro kayo dito, mama na kayo. It’s a gentleman’s game, wala ng pa-baby dito,” Orillana said about his young team. “Kelangan lumaban kayo. Fight for your name and fight for your school.”
In clinching the top seed entering the second round, the Green Batters will open the second round against the 0-6 UP Fighting Maroons. On the other hand, the Blue Eagles will face the UST Golden Sox (2-5) later in the day.