After a silver finish two years ago anchored by then-rookie pitcher Cochise Diolata, the Lady Maroons entered Season 79 with doubts after their ace pitcher was declared ineligible for the season.
The softbelles of the University of the Philippines though showed no effects of what happened, rallying around each other to take their opening day assignment in dominant fashion, 11-0 abb. 6th, Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium in Manila.
“It feels very light. We all just connected. I know that we lacked a pitcher, but we showed that even without her, we can still do it,” said outfielder Chantal Bongat.
“We changed our goal when we knew we lost Chise for the season. Instead of just winning, [we changed our goal] to working together. And we just connected,” team captain Gelai Penales added.
Penales gave much-needed lift to UP’s batting order, a line-up that lost Gabin Paz and twins DC and Denise Cruz to graduation. She went 2-of-4 at-bat, including two RBIs.
“We actually lost our field [in UP] so what we just did was only batting and lifting weights. We made the most of what we had and, I think, lumabas naman yung power sa game namin,” Penales quipped.
And it was none more evident than in the sixth inning of the game, an inning that felt like an eternity for the Lady Warriors.
A single by Clarisse dela Cruz sparked an 8-run inning that confounded relievers Lovely Redaja and, later on, Lorraine Collado. Six of those runs were earned and was capped by an RBI triple from Jazreel Movido.
By the end of the inning, the Lady Maroons held an imposing 11-0 lead.
Third year pitcher Ella Martinez (1-0) made her first UAAP start as she filled in the shoes left by Diolata. She pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing five hits. Rookie Allyssah Palacol then closed out the game, shutting out UE the rest of the way.
“They were ready naman. Our other pitchers, kahit if they’re not our number one pitchers, they gained a lot talaga and they showed it with their effort,” Bongat, who had two RBIs and a run, reflected.
Movido and Marric Cabriana chipped in two runs as well.
Elvie Senangote (0-1) pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed two runs before being subbed out in the fourth inning.
UP (1-0) will next face Ateneo (0-1) on Monday, February 6 in a game they are not taking lightly.
“We need to stay humble and not let this win get in our heads,” Penales said.
UE (0-1), on the other hand, takes on La Salle (0-1) at 1pm.