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Lady Maroons smother Ateneo to clinch playoff for semis slot

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UP (6-5, 3rd)08201020151
ADMU (0-12, 7th)000101410

A chance at redemption

The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons pummelled their neighbors the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Lady Eagles, 20-1, to move a step closer to the semifinal round last Saturday, March 7 at Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium, Manila.

Third year veteran DC Cruz started the game with a single off to left field. Batchmate Gabin Paz followed it up with a double to the right foul line. With runners on first and second for the Lady Maroons, the Ateneo defense went to work retiring the next three batters leaving DC Cruz and Paz stranded after the first-half inning.

UP rookie starting pitcher Cochise Diolata showed no mercy early on, fanning the graduating Ateneo shortstop Lala Cruz and her counterpart Nikki Borromeo. Senior Kat Altomonte pushed a hit to deep center to get on base. However, a fly ball to first by Aira Nevalga ended the first inning scoreless.

Cruz’s twin Dennise hit a grounder to L. Cruz, to start off the next inning. However, the Ateneo veteran dropped the ball to advance to first base. UP veteran Sella Mendoza followed it up with base hit to put runners on first and second for UP. The Lady Eagles recovered to get the next two batters out. With one out away to end their side of the inning, Ateneo decided to intentionally walk DC Cruz to make it easier for the defense to get the last out. However, Paz hit a ball into deep left-center to register a triple and score DC, Mendoza, and Dennise to put UP on board 3-0. Newcomer Gelai Penales kept the offense going when she delivered a base hit to score Paz. Sophomore designated hitter Chanty Bongat reached base again when Shereen Salvatierra failed to recover the grounder. As Bongat was batting, Penales stole a base to move to second. With Diolata at bat, Penales advanced to third as a passed ball was not caught by Altomonte.

A consequent error by Ateneo’s Cruz loaded the bases for UP. The miscues did not stop for Ateneo as a centerfielder Parma was not able to deal with a Dennise Cruz fly ball, that led to two more runs for the Maroons, with Bongat and Diolata stepping to the plate, 7-0. A double by Mendoza to deep left field, scored Cruz as the flood gates blew for the Maroons, 8-0. Ateneo finally stopped the bleeding as Lily Gonzales grounded out to Salvatierra to end the side of the inning. UP consolidated their strong showing on their side of the second inning as they retired the next three batters of Ateneo.

In the third inning, captain and shortstop Seiko Hashimoto started the fifth inning for the Diliman-based with single to deep center. After DC Cruz and Paz were dismissed, UP went on to a two-out rally. Penales hit a long fly to the left field, but was not caught by Angela Natividad as Hashimoto crossed home to add another run for the Maroons. Bongat hit a double to score Penales as UP registered a double-digit tally. The Lady Eagles put an end this time early as they retired substitute Angelica Palacol as the third inning ended at 10-0.

Ateneo finally had a break as Borromeo broke Diolata’s pitch for just a second time. After Altomonte and Kat Villareal flyed out, and Nevalga on second on a fielding error by UP shortstop Gonzales, substitute Cheskie Tantoco hit a single to score the Borromeo to get on board, 1-10. Diolata ended it soon enough, dismissing Salvatierra to end the fourth inning.

The Lady Maroons just needs to hold in the fifth inning to run away with the win. However, UP turned to this game to gain confidence going into the crucial stretch to the postseason stint. After a scoreless fourth inning, the third seeds pushed the onslaught more. After an MJ Abanes fly out, DC Cruz hit a double to right field. This prompted Ateneo to make a pitching change as Nevalga took the mound for Borromeo. That did not hinder UP as Paz, who was playing one of her best games of her UAAP career hit yet another single to score her batchmate Cruz to make it 11-1 for her team.

Penales got on first base in the subsequent play when Borromeo over threw the ball, and Paz added another run for UP, 12-1. With Bongat at the plate, a passed ball advanced Penales on third. Bongat then advanced to first after a wild pitch by Nevalga hit the burly sophomore. In the ensuing play, Penales will go on to score to blew the lead up to 13-1. With runner on second, it was up to the next batters to drive another run with just one out. Nevalga went to work in the following batter she faced as she retired her fellow pitcher Diolata. It was just the calm before the storm as Dennise Cruz pushed a line drive along the right foul line was more to score Penales, 14-1.

Rookie Jazreel Movido hit the ball to the other side as she advanced Cruz to second. Fourth year veteran Gonzales took it again to the deep right as she drove in a double to score Dennise Cruz and advanced Movido to third, 16-1. Abanes made it count this time as she turned to the left again hitting a single to get on base. DC Cruz was again given a free pass to first to load the bases for the Maroons. Presented the same situation, the former Miriam College player Paz hit it again on the deep right for a double to score three more for UP as Gonzales, Abanes, and DC Cruz steps home.

Ateneo needed just one out to end the misery but a fielding error off Natividad scored Paz and moved Penales to a prime scoring position at second base. Nevalga took it into her own hands as she retired the hard-hitting Bongat. UP was able to mount an insurmountable 20-1 lead.

With three outs away from a possible semifinals stint, the Maroons went on to defense. Diolata fanned Dakky Dacanay and the infield retired Parma and L. Cruz to complete the onslaught for the Maroons.

With the win, UP is now is assured of at least a playoff for a semifinals slot. Ateneo ends their season without a win. The Lady Maroons will take on De La Salle University in the last day of eliminations on Wednesday.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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