King Archer Carlos Muñoz made a triumphant return to the mound for the De La Salle University Green Batters Sunday afternoon.
Muñoz was phenomenal in his first full game back from a shoulder injury, leading the Green Batters to a dominant 4-1 victory over the Adamson University Soaring Falcons to book their ticket to the UAAP Season 78 Baseball Finals for the third straight year.
The 22-year-old senior allowed his only hit of the game at the top of the first inning. After a flyout to left fielder Diego Lozano of lead-off batter Gerald Riparip, sophomore Erwin Bosito connected with a double, Adamson’s only clean hit for the entire game. Bosito was able to steal third base, while an overthrow by catcher Paul Naguit paved the way for an Adamson run. Muñoz calmly struck out the next two batters to close out the inning.
“Adjustment lang. Sabi ko sa kanila, anytime puwede silang tumama kasi tuwid na tuwid yung pitch ni Carlos pero nandun naman yung speed,” La Salle head coach Joseph Orillana said. “After nila maka-score, nakuha na ni Carlos yung spot niya.”
At the other end, the Green Batters were able to gain the lead at the bottom end of the inning. Lead-off batter Francis Salud opened the inning with a base hit and followed it up with a second base steal. Barandiaran was then able to gain base due to balls with one out. After a ground out of Ignacio Escano, Cholo Dominguez connected with a single to load up the bases. Carlos Minana then popped a fly ball for a double that brought home Salud and Barandiaran for a 2-1 lead.
Josh Salinas was able to extend the lead in the second inning after punching in La Salle’s third run of the game coming from an Adamson error. While in the fifth inning, Barandiaran connected on his second single of the game to bring home Salud, who was 3 of 4 at bat in the game.
On the defensive end, Muñoz anchored the La Salle defense that slowly demoralized the Adamson clubhouse as the innings went by. Muñoz did not allow a single hit in the next eight innings of the game. Moreover, he was able to strikeout ten batters in the game, including the last two Adamson batters in the final inning.
After the game, Muñoz shared that it was a different experience for him to just pitch for the entire duration of the game. “It was good. It was a little different because I’m not used to just pitching and not hitting. So today coach gave me a different [role],” the King Archer said. “Everyone has been playing different roles and I need to play my role too. It was actually nice and it worked.”
Despite having struck out ten batters, he deflected the credit to his teammates who helped him strand two runners on base. “The defense was really good. I just tried getting them to hit weak ground balls to the outfield and they did not mess up,” he added. “If we keep doing this, we’re going to win.”
However, coach Joseph Orillana is still worried that the team’s desire to score is not as consistent as he wants it to be. “Ang sabi ko sa kanila yung killer instinct and intensity nila nawawala. Minsan kasi kahit maganda yung pinupukol ng pitcher, nawawala yung batting nila,” the former UAAP champion shared. “Kung tight game, kahit maganda yung laro ng pitcher kelangan pa rin ng palo.”
Looking forward to their last two games of the season, Orillana still searches for performances from his reserves to fill up his playoff rotation. “Sabi ko sa kanila focus pa rin. Yung last two namin, kahit no bearing, performance pa rin kasi dun ako kukuha ng line-ups,” he closed. “Kung hindi mag-click yung first stringers, alam ko kung sino bubunutin sa second stringers ang mainit.”
The DLSU Green Batters look to avenge their only loss of the season in facing the National University Bulldogs in the second game of Thursday, March 3 slate of games. On the other hand, the Adamson Soaring Falcons look to upset the Ateneo Blue Eagles to open the day’s games at 7:00am.
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