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UP Lady Maroons climb to solo 4th as Ateneo brings 4 seniors home

After suffering a heartbreaking loss to the UST Tiger Softbelles last Monday, the University of the Philippines were expected to bounce back big.

The Lady Maroons had to dig deep with an undermanned crew, but still stifled a determined Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles team, 5-1, to claim their sixth win of the season, Saturday morning at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.

Given  the win and the results later that day, the Diliman-based side have revived their Final Four bid despite going into the game without Keith Ferrer and with Gayle Suelto still recovering.

Nonetheless, the Lady Maroons still went out on a mission against their neighbors, whom they caught flat-footed at the start.

UP rookie second baseman Grace Adajar reached first base on a dropped ball from Ateneo catcher Jill San Juan. Fellow newbie Mitch Samenieda next gained base on a walk.

Erika Olfato, another rookie from the Fighting Maroons, then drove in a solid hit to the center that scored her infielder, even as Samenieda was forced out on second base. The catcher suffered the same dismissal before Cochise Diolata put runners on base with another hit. Ateneo’s Therese Macasaet then stopped the bleeding, pulling off three strikes past Panjie Legaspi to end the side.

The Diliman-based side, however, added three more runs in the next two frames to put them up at 4-0 after three innings. First baseman Johy Bernabe’s two-RBI single in the third inning punctuated that side, taking advantage of the opposition’s missed chance at an easy out on Legaspi’s second at-bat.

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The Lady Eagles’ persistence paid off in the following inning, as Alisha Vergara scored on a failed fielding attempt from UP captain Cai De Luna – who was playing in lieu of the injured Ferrer on center field – off a bouncy grounder from Cheska Nepomuceno.

Fortunately for the Maroons, Legaspi put out a hot grounder herself that the Ateneo defense could not catch, before Rabe scored her sophomore shortstop for the final run of the day. Both teams then turned to their defense as they eventually sealed the scoreboard with the final score.

The win is acceptable with the situation they were in, according to coach Edwin Mercado. “Siyempre, medyo … we lost two players. Yung key players namin injured so malaking factor yun sa game,” he said.

The UP deputy also admitted, “Sa totoo lang, hindi ako satisfied kasi nga hinahanap ko yung sa [plays ng] dalawang players ko, pero buti na lang maganda yung pinukol ng pitcher ko, so good pa rin.”

Despite allowing Ateneo to six hits, Diolata limited them to a single unearned run and anchored the Maroons’ near-impeccable side on defense on a solitary error. Bernabe paced the opposite side with two hits, one of which scored two, and crossed home once herself.

Vergara was the bright spot in Ateneo’s game with one run off a hit.

The Lady Eagles ended their season at 1-11 and bid goodbye to four seniors led by versatile player Yla Trinidad. Joining the standout rounding the bases for the last time are Nikola Lacson, Africa, and Noelle Dela Cruz.

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For the Maroons, they will take on the National University on an exciting battle on Monday, March 16. A win for UP clinches the Final Four slot while a Lady Bulldogs victory will force a playoff between the two squads.

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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