De La Salle University Green Batters head coach Joseph Orillana once said that there is no such thing as rookies and sophomores once you are in the UAAP.
“Sabi ko sa kanila, wala ng rookies at sophomore dito sa UAAP. Pag maglaro kayo dito, mama na kayo. It’s a gentleman’s game, wala ng pa-baby dito,” Orillana said. “Kelangan lumaban kayo. Fight for your name and fight for your school.”
The current composition of the Green Batters has eight rookies on their rosters, approximately 40% of the team. Moreover, rookies like second baseman Joshua Salinas and designated hitter Ignacio Escano have received major playing time for the squad that helped the team reach the Finals for the third straight year.
In Game One of the UAAP Season 78 Baseball Finals, another freshman took charge for the Green Batters. 18 year old rookie from La Salle Greenhills Diego Lozano.
Lozano passed his UAAP debut with flying colors in their second game of the season against the UP Fighting Maroons. In the seven innings he pitched that game, he only allowed three hits, all single base hits. Moreover, Lozano was able to strikeout 11 batters in his starting debut.
In the biggest game of his young career, Lozano relieved for last season’s best pitcher Boo Barandiaran during the fifth inning of the game. During that frame, the defending champions, Ateneo Blue Eagles, were slowly gaining the momentum in cutting the La Salle lead to just three runs, 6-3.
“They told me just keep doing what I’m doing. Stay focused and don’t mind the crowd, the drums – don’t mind the other shenanigans going on,” Lozano recalled when his name was called up to the mound. “(I told myself) Just stay focused. Just imagine you, the catcher, and the batter. That’s it.”
The former ILLAM standout was able to hold the Blue Eagles during that frame. Later on, as the defending champions attempted a late-game hijack during the seventh inning with just one out. Lozano fanned Ateneo heavy hitter, his third of six strikeouts in the game, while a flyout of King Eagle Dio Remollo to center field stranded the two Ateneo runners.
“Yung laro ni Lozano para ng isang senior. Sabi ko sa kanya wala ng rookie dito. Dito you need to be a mature player,” Orillana, also a pitcher for the RP Blu Boys, said about Lozano. “Pagkamahina ang loob mo diyan kakainin ka ng hitters ng Ateneo.”
Lozano and the Green Batters were able to hold on for an emphatic 8-3 win to draw first blood in the Finals. “Feels really good especially that we got the victory. We did not win a game last year in the Finals. Going in to this game, the mindset was just get the W,” the rookie said.
He admitted that he experienced jitters as he stepped on the mound but shared that he needed to overcome it for the sake of the team. “Of course there’s a little bit of nerves that comes in but my mindset was already in the game,” he admitted. “I just said to myself that I need to stay focused. If I stayed nervous, nothing good will come out of this game.”
“I also thank the Lord for helping me win this game. Without him, this is not even possible.”
The lefty rookie will most likely not start in Game Two after pitching five long innings in Game One. He is hoping that he and his team’s effort have planted the seeds to help end the 13 year odyssey of the Green Batters.
Game Two of the best-of-three UAAP Baseball Finals is set to be played on Monday at 12:00nn.