Coming off a shocking upset loss to the UP Fighting Maroons last Wednesday, defending UAAP Baseball Champions Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles were able to bounce back at the expense of the once-proud National University Bulldogs, 5-3, Sunday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
After being limited to their season-low four hits during their last outing, Ateneo baseball program director Randy Dizer made sure to present the numbers to his team prior to this game.
“Yesterday, we met with them, nilabas ko yung statistics. Right now we got the most number of strikeouts, masyado silang mapili sa pitches. Bumagsak lahat ng hitting ng lahat ng players,” the decorated mentor rued.
“The only way they could come back was for them to swing. They have to face the fact that they don’t have to complain to the umpires. They were able adjust,” added Dizer as Ateneo was able to rack up 10 hits in the contest.
Marquis Alindogan, who was moved up to the top of the batting order for the first time this season, opened the game with a double, and was brought home by a single by next batter Marco Mallari to open up the scoring in the first inning.
A fielding error by NU’s third baseman brought home Dan Laurel in the next inning doubled Ateneo’s lead.
The lead would further balloon in the sixth inning after Ateneo skipper Dino Altomonte slammed his first home run of the season, which added two more runs for the Blue Eagles. It also forced NU head coach Saki Bacarisas to retire Junmar Diarao from the mound.
With Ateneo holding a 5-0 lead, NU tried to perform a late hijack.
On the other end, Paulo Macasaet sat eight batters down while allowing just four hits in seven innings pitched.
Rookie Nico Lozano was brought in to close out the contest.
Nico, the younger brother of Nacho, was connected on by a Clarence Caasalan base hit that brought home Evan Tabores during the eighth inning.
Errors by the Blue Eagles fielders paved the way for two more runs courtesy of Jemuel Roxas and Kenneth Ybanez to slice the lead to just two.
“They wanted to change him but sabi ko we need to let him finish the game. It’s not his fault naman e, puro errors kaya naka-pasok yung NU. I wanted him to find a way to bounce back. Kung hindi, Miggy was ready or his brother Nacho,” diclosed Dizer.
Lozano and the Blue Eagles were able to hold on for the win.
“We need that game on Wednesday. If we win that game, we are one foot in,” said Dizer.
Ateneo are now tied with the Adamson Soaring Falcons at second with 5-2 slates. The two squads will face each other on Wednesday, February, 28. The also-ran Bulldogs will next face the University of Santo Tomas Golden Sox.