Coming off three lackadaisical losses, the National University Bulldogs — a team seen by the league’s coaches as a contender heading into the season — regrouped prior to this game. They could not afford to lose to the hapless University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons.
Refocused, ace pitcher Junmar Diarao and the Bulldogs peppered the Fighting Maroons, 9-1, Wednesday afternoon at the historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
“Saya! Na-survive na namin yung pangit na momentum. Kahapon, nag-usap talaga kami,” said lefty pitcher Diarao. “As in nilabas namin kung ano yung problema ng team, kung ano yung kulang namin. Ayun, talagang nakuha namin dun kung ano ang dapat namin gawin para manalo. Alam namin na hindi kami kulang, siguro momentum lang kailangan namin.”
After struggling to connect during their first three games of the season, the Bulldogs were able to get their bearings back, finishing the game with their season-high 11 hits.
“Nag-double time kami sa palo. Sa batting cage, sa school, sa palo kami nag-focus. Sana bumalik na yung dati naming laro,” added Diarao, who registered his first win in two games started.
With Diarao allowing just four hits in the seven innings he pitched, the offense was more confident.
NU picked up four runs during the first four innings of the game, before making a strong four-run push in the fifth inning. Azriel Villalobos, Alfredo De Guzman, Clarence Caasalan, and Diarao himself connected on consecutive singles, with Diarao bringing home two runners. A catching error by UP shortstop Mark Tuballas extended NU’s lead to seven runs.
The Fighting Maroons, who were without lead-off batter Gabby Yang due to suspension, could not get anything going — even falling to 6-4-3 double play to close out the eighth inning.
“Iba ngayon. Yung mga last game namin down kami pero nakita niyo naman kanina na masaya kami. Sana magtuloy-tuloy na ito,” Diarao hoped.
NU take on the University of Santo Tomas Golden Sox in their final assignment of the round on Sunday, February 18. UP hope to wield the upset axe on the De La Salle University Green Batters on the same day.