|ADMU (7-1), 1st||0||0||5||0||0||0||0||1||2||8||5||7|
|UP (4-4), 3rd||2||0||0||2||2||0||2||0||1||9||12||2|
The Battle of Katipunan added another epic to its lore, this time in the diamond field last Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium. It was a clutch over clutch performance by both squads. In the end, it was a Mikael Herrera clutch RBI that propelled the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons to a 9-8 victory over the defending champions the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Batters to blemish ADMU’s previously unbeaten record and keep UP’s finals hopes alive.
Sophomore Miguel Herrera was designated as the starting pitcher for the Fighting Maroons. Herrera and the UP defense picked-off the first six batters for ADMU in the first two innings of the contest, including a strikeout of Renzo Ramos to close out the second inning.
The Fighting Maroons managed to put up runs on the scoreboard at the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Karl Peralta was able to hit a single to left field against ADMU starting pitcher Miguel Dumlao. Peralta was permitted to move to second base due to an error by ADMU left fielder Lorenzo Orbeta. League leader in hits SJ San Juan was then walked by Dumlao due to balls. San Juan and Peralta gained prime real estate after a James Legaspi grounder that resulted to the second out for the inning for UP. An error by shortstop Adriene Bernardo paved the way for runs by Peralta and San Juan and gave UP a 2-0 lead. Dumlao and the ADMU defense were able to shutout UP in the next inning highlighted by a double play that resulted to outs by Diego Gonzales and Edelton Espejo.
The Ateneo offense picked up at the top of the third inning. Lead-off batter in the inning for the Blue Batters, Radito Banzon hit a single right off the bat and was able to steal second afterwards. Pelos Remollo was then hit by a pitch while Lorenzo Orbeta was walked due to balls to load up the bases for the Blue side with no outs. A successful fielder’s choice was made that knocked off Banzon at home plate. Senior Inigo Untalan knocked a three RBI double to put ADMU up 3-2. However, as Untalan slid to second, he seemed to have sprained his ankle that resulted in a substitution for Luis Puno. Next at-bat Matt Laurel hit a home run to give ADMU a 5-2 lead. After the Laurel home run, Miguel Herrera was subbed out for rookie Kenneth Marinas, who was then replaced by JC Pantan at the top of the fourth as pitcher.
The UP Fighting Maroons were able to trim the Ateneo lead to just a solitary run in the fourth inning. A pivotal catching error by Dio Remollo led to runs by Mikael Herrera and Diego Gonzales. Then at the bottom of the fifth inning, after giving up singles against Peralta, San Juan, and Pantan- the last resulting to a Peralta run to tie the game- Dumlao was relieved of pitching duties for super rookie Paulo Macasaet. San Juan helped regain the lead for the Fighting Maroons after a throwing error by ADMU second baseman Banzon. The inning ended with UP on top, 6-5.
Pantan was able to shutout the ADMU offense in the sixth and seventh innings in giving up no hits and no bases. At the bottom of the seventh inning, UP continued to extend the lead to 8-5. The errors kept piling up for the Hail Mary squad as a costly error by shortstop Bernardo led to runs by the duo of Peralta and San Juan.
Just when everyone thought that the momentum has fully swung in favor of the Maroons, the Hail Mary squad displayed amazing poise and veteran experience in grinding the UP lead in the late innings. With an out and two bases loaded at the top of the eighth, Ramos hit a clutch single that paved the way for a Remollo run and cut the UP lead to just two runs going into the ninth.
At the top of the ninth, third year batter Rapho Balagtas provided the spark for the Blue side. Balagtas took advantage of an error to move to first and was able to steal second. Bernardo was then walked due to balls. With two bases loaded for the defending champions, UP head coach Anthony Dizer decided to replace Pantan for Gabriel Rodriguez to close the game. Balagtas and Bernardo were able to take the prime scoring positions after a defensive lapse by UP 3rd baseman San Juan. With just one out, last season’s best slugger Laurel was walked to a chorus of boos by the Ateneo faithful. Remollo afterwards then hit a clutch fly to give Balagtas the opportunity to slide in a run. A costly error by UP second baseman Martin Senador resulted to a Bernardo run to tie the game at 8-all. The inning ended with Laurel left on third base but with the game tied up.
With the game tied, UP needed just one run to take the game. Lead off batter San Juan hit a fly but it was caught at center field for the first out. Macasaet was then able to strikeout next batter James Legaspi. With two outs, Pantan hit a single to gain first base. Then, right off the bat Mikael Herrera immediately popped a clutch double deep into center field that opened the way for Pantan to score the game-winning run.
The UP win over ADMU dented the clean slate of the Blue Batters. More importantly, the win gave UP a glimmer of hope to reach the finals.
After the game, Coach Dizer shared with us his strategy, including the various pitching changes that confused the Ateneo batters in the middle innings.
“We all know Ateneo has good hitters especially with fast ball pitches. I started with Herrera’s fastball, then switched to my rookie’s (Marinas) slowball then went with JC (Pantan) who has a lot of variations with his pitches.”
Moreover, after being down 5-2, Coach Dizer did not lose faith in his team. “I told the boys to win every inning. Bilog ang bola, a loss can only happen after the final out in the last inning.”
The UP Fighting Maroons next face the DLSU Green Batters in a crucial matchup on Sunday, February 22 at 1:30pm while the ADMU Blue Batters look to bounce back against the UST Golden Sox at 7am on the same day. Both games will be played at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
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