DEFENDING champion De La Salle University took a step closer to punching a return trip to the UAAP Baseball Finals after escaping its also-ran archrival, Ateneo de Manila University, 13-7 on Wednesday at the UP Diliman Baseball Field.
Rising to a 6-3 slate for solo second, the Green Batters have clinched at least a playoff for the second Finals berth. Only Adamson University (5-4) will have a chance to tie them heading into the final day of the elimination round on Saturday.
The Green Batters still have Finals-bound University of the Philippines on deck on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. while the Soaring Falcons will take on University of Santo Tomas earlier in the day.
With La Salle’s win, the National University Bulldogs (3-5) and the Golden Sox (3-5) are both out of Finals contention as well. The two squads are currently duking it out as of publishing.
DLSU coach Joseph Orillana emphasized the importance of winning this game to his wards, saying, “We have nothing to lose against Ateneo, but we must win. Our chance was there in the first three innings, but the problem was that we relaxed. Ateneo was just enjoying the game, although they also wanted to win. Meanwhile, we were rushing, which caused us to make more errors.”
“I told them, ‘At least, let’s get in the last inning, then let our defense take care of it,’” the former La Salle pitcher continued.
Leading by two in the bottom of the sixth at 7-5, DLSU first baseman Iggy Escaño tried to add to the margin by stealing home. However, a throw from the Ateneo centerfielder Luis Capati down to catcher Joaquin Casanova tagged the UAAP Season 79 Season Most Valuable Player out and negated his run.
That fueled the Blue Eagles in their following turn at bat, as they leveled the count at seven going into the last two innings. Casanova turned his previous defensive stop into runs on the board, scoring Juan Carlos Dela Rosa — who came on to bat for Joaquin Alcaraz — and infielder Joshua De Juras for the equalizers.
The Green Batters heeded his call and punched in six go-ahead runs in the eighth inning to eventually put the final score. After shortstop Julius Diaz flew out to Capati, the rest of the DLSU batting order reached base, with centerfielder Shinji Kajihara, Escaño, Lord Aragorn De Vera, catcher JR Samuel, starting right-fielder Pio Villamiel, and starting second baseman Vince Flores all crossing the plate in the process.
The titleholders then went to work with relief pitcher De Vera steering his defense to take the last three outs, ending the three-hour-and-40-minute tussle, fuelled by huge double play on Ateneo third baseman Ethan Mitschiener and Capati. The rookie infielder then sent Luis Casanova home for the third and final out.
De Vera limited Ateneo to two runs on two hits while striking six batters out of the 14 he faced in the four innings he stood on the mound. He picked up from the solid first five innings from Peter Nonaillada before Ateneo slowly crept into the advantage.
Five Ateneo pitchers tried to contain the Green Batters with De Juras making the latter work on two runs on three hits, but a base-on-balls surrendered to Escaño and two consecutive hit-by-pitches to De Vera and Samuel put a blemish on his otherwise good three innings pitching.
Most of the Blue Eagles’ offense came from the bottom of the order as Daniel Fabella and Rico Samson provided the hits with both getting two hits on four at-bats.
Game 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Ateneo 1 0 0 3 0 1 2 0 0 7 10 8
DLSU 2 2 2 0 1 0 0 6 x 13 8 5