In an early morning classic that had a little bit of drama, the National University Bulldogs gave-up a huge lead before storming back late in the 9th to edge out the De La Salle Green Batters 8-7 last Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
Early drama ensued prior to the start of the game as DLSU catcher Paul Naguiat wore the wrong jersey for the day’s game. The officials deemed that, unless he gets back with the right uniform, he will not be allowed in the playing field. As a result, rookie Joaquin Bilbao was designated as the catcher for DLSU.
The Bulldog fielding was on point in the 1st 5 innings of the game. NU pitcher Ronel Peralta and his fielders only gave up 2 hits during that time period that froze the DLSU batters. Moreover, the defense was very efficient as the Bulldogs only allowed 17 Green Batters at-bat.
The offense was also there for the Bulldogs as the batters from Sampaloc blasted to an early 4-0 lead in the 1st inning. A throwing error by DLSU catcher Joaquin Bilbao resulted to a Herxel Fortunato run. Another error by Bilbao and 1st baseman Felix Imperial led to a Ken Ybanez double that led to a run for Julius Mondragon and Junmar Diarao. The opening inning ended with NU on top 4-0.
An error marred back-to-back passed balls by Bilbao resulted to senior Rich Calivoso to move to 3rd base at the bottom of the 4th inning. With Alfredo de Guzman on base, a catching error by DLSU 3rd baseman Francis Gesmundo paved the way for Calivoso and de Guzman runs. Coach Joseph Orillana relieved Carlos Munoz of pitcher duties as this happened and went with rookie Vicente Barandiaran. The NU Bulldogs extended their lead to 6-0 at the end of the 4th.
Last season’s regular season leaders gained their momentum at the top of the 6th inning. Runs by Joaquin Bilbao and Carlos Laurel cut the NU deficit to just 4 at the end of the 6th. The DLSU rally extended into the 8th inning. Just as Carlos Munoz reached 1st base due to BB’s, Ronel Peralta was relieved of pitching duties and replaced by sophomore Junmar Diarao. The momentum had shifted in favor of the green side as Munoz and substitutes Andre Palacios and Vicente Barandiaran scored runs to cut the NU lead to just two runs.
The DLSU batting order for the 9th began with the team’s best sluggers on deck. An RBI by Francis Gesmundo coming from a double led to a Carlos Laurel run to the game. A Carlos Munoz single paved way for a Gesmundo run and gave DLSU the lead for the first time 7-6. An unassisted out by NU 3rd baseman Clarence Caasalan to Paolo Salud ended the upper half of the last inning of regulation.
At the bottom of the 9th and with NU down for the first time in the game, the first batter for NU in the 9th, Junmar Diara, walked on balls. Caasalan was then put out at 1st base. Next on deck was rookie Keneth Ybanez. Ybanez hit a long grounder to center field that led to a Diarao run to tie the game once more at 7-all. Ybanez then stole 2nd base with Ericson Villame at bat. Villame was then hit by a pitch to move to 1st base. Felix Custodio swung for the fences and hit a long fly at center field. DLSU center fielder Paolo Salud caught the ball on the ground and threw the ball to their catcher. As this was happening, Ybanez ran hard towards home base. It was a photo finish as Ybanez secured home a few split seconds before Paolo Bilbao was able to tag him. NU escaped with a win 8-7.
Both teams are now tied at the standings with 1 win and 1 loss. The National University Bulldogs next face the UP Fighting Maroons on Sunday, February 1 while the De La Salle University Green Batters go against the Adamson Soaring Falcons on the same day.