Under the bright lights of the UAAP’s biggest stage and the scorching heat of the summer sun, rookie Lu Minana showed that he belongs.
In a strong seven-inning showing, the freshman pitcher out of De La Salle Zobel steered the De La Salle University Green Batters to a 9-7 victory over arch-rivals Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, Friday afternoon at the historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
Minana, a candidate in both the Rookie of the Year and Best Pitcher race, pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing just three hits and no runs while fanning four batters. He threw a total of 97 pitches.
“Binigyan ko siya ng kumpyansa. Napakalaki ng role niya sa team at malaking factor siya kapag gusto namin manalo ng championship,” said La Salle head coach Joseph Orillana, himself an all-time great for La Salle.
During the seventh inning, however, Minana’s right leg cramped up, ending his masterpiece on the mound.
It was not just Minana who experienced cramps as Kiko Gesmundo, Boo Barandiaran, and Diego Lozano for La Salle and Javi Macasaet and Dino Altomonte for Ateneo did so as well.
“Siguro sa panahon na lang din yun at sa excitement nila. Yun yung nangyari sa both teams. Kapag naubusan kami kanina, maghuhugutan na kami ng tao,” explained Orillana.
Besides this, things got heated during the bottom of the fifth inning that saw a judgment call not go in the favor of La Salle. League commissioner Mike Zialcita had to intervene to pacify all parties involved.
La Salle though was unperturbed for the first eight innings of the game, leading by as much as 9-2. During the eighth inning, Escano connected on a three-run homer. It proved to be a much-needed one.
With their backs against the wall, the Blue Eagles tried to perform a late-game hijack. After cutting the lead to six runs, Gino Tantuico blasted a grand slam to centerfield to slice the deficit to just two runs.
Good thing for La Salle, Arvin Herrera was able to cool down Ateneo to seal the win.
Anton Rosas had three hits to pace La Salle while Escano ended up with five RBIs on two hits.
Paulo Macasaet was off to a good start for Ateneo but ended up giving up three runs on three hits in 5 1/3 innings pitched.
Javi Macasaet had three hits for Ateneo while Tantuico collected five RBIs.
The Green Batters have yet to lose a game since February 24, an 11-13 loss to the Blue Eagles in the first round.
La Salle took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three UAAP Baseball Finals. Game Two is on Tuesday, April 2 at the same venue.