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Valentine’s Day Demolition: Ateneo annihilate neighbors UP in run-fest


After dueling a classic in their latest meeting, defending champions Ateneo de Manila University Blue Batters had something to say to next-door neighbours University of the Philippines on Valentine’s Day. To say the least, the reigning champions sent some “brutal love” to the last year’s third-placers.

Ateneo pulled off a late beating in their final turn at bat to blow off the Maroons, 26-9, Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.

The Blue Batters flexed their muscles early on as they poured in four runs in the first inning. Right from the word “play,” senior Radito Banzon sent UP starting pitcher Gab Rodriguez’ first pitch into deep center field for a double. The Maroons then failed on an attempt to retire Banzon, before Dio Remello hit the ball to the left field for a sacrifice fly and scored the lead-off batter. After Kai Furosawa was intentionally walked to load the bases, Lorenzo Ramos then singled to send Luis Mallari and Furosawa home. A passed ball with Ryan Hilario at the plate sent Gio Tantuico. Sensing urgency, UP dismissed the next two batters to stop the early onslaught.

The Diliman-based batters threatened to score in their side of the first inning with a double of rookie Phonso Balagtas and another base hit off SJ San Juan. However, Ateneo took their stand on defense and played the Maroons to zero to end the first frame.

The defending champions added another run in the second inning with Mallari stepping onto the plate for the second time. The Ateneo rookie earlier reached first base off a throwing error by UP second baseman Mark Tuballas. Furosawa sent the ball to Rodriguez as Mallari went home on a fielder’s choice.

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On the other hand, UP also registered a run at the bottom of the second inning to get into the score board. Sixth and seventh batters Gabby Yang and JJ Cinco got free passes to the first base. The situation set a potential breakthrough run and lead-off batter James Legaspi delivered Yang home for UP’s first score.

The Maroons started their uphill climb in the following inning after shutting down Ateneo with 1-2-3 defensive stops by their outfield. UP consolidated it with a two-run third inning with San Juan and designated hitter Diego Gonzalez starting off the side with two bombs. The captain, San Juan, drove the ball into the left-center for a double, before Gonzalez sent his batchmate home with a booming triple into the first-base foul line. The fourth-year Maroon would be denied a run, however, as he was tagged on a solid play of Ateneo shortstop Tantuico off a throw to Remollo. The Maroons still scored their third run of the game, nonetheless, when Emil Fernandez scored off a Cinco single.

UP then cut the deficit to a solitary run, 4-5, after stopping Ateneo’s offense and doing their own work at bat. Last batter, Tuballas, scored the lone run of the fourth inning. Tantuico made two costly errors in the frame that, first, sent Tuballas to first base, and then scored the UP rookie with San Juan batting.

Things would get out of hand starting of the following frame as both Ateneo and UP sent runners after runners pass the home plate. In the fifth inning, the Blue Batters scored two runs, while the Maroons also got two. Ramos and Hilario crossed for Ateneo, and Yang and Cinco once more made it for UP. At this point, the battle was tight at 7-6 with Ateneo leading.

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However, that story ended in just the next frame. The Blue Batters kicked off the rout at the succeeding inning. With the reigning titlists taking the sixth with the top of the order, first batter Banzon started off with a single between San Juan and Tuballas. The flood gates then opened, as Ateneo peppered Rodriguez and the Maroons with hits, before Furosawa sent a long ball for a 2 RBI double and pushed Ateneo’s lead to 9-6. Rodriguez was recalled to the dugout and Miguel Herrera took the mound. Tantuico took advantage of the ice-cold Herrera and sent to more runners home to further extend the lead to 11-6. Hilario added another run with a sacrifice fly to UP right field Fernandez to score Tantuico.

As if the lead was not enough, the Blue Batters showed no mercy in their side of the seventh and eighth innings. In the seventh, Banzon scored another run after Fernandez faltered on a routine catch on a Furosawa’s hit. Ateneo’s lead then ballooned to double digits at 17-6 in the eighth as the defense of UP fell into massive disarray. Hilario, Ryon Tionloc, Banzon, and Mallari stepped past Cinco one-by-one  to send the Blue Batter’s to just three outs away from sealing this emphatic demolition of UP.

The Maroons then pulled off a last-gasp effort to mount a miraculous comeback on their side of the eighth inning. UP took advantage of Ateneo’s designated closer Paulo Macasaet’s jetlag to score three runs to prevent an early end to the ballgame. Team captain San Juan singled to start off UP’s offense, before Paulo Macasaet gave bases to Tyrone Malana and Fernandez off a walk and hit-by-pitch, respectively. The three then scored to give the Maroons borrowed life with a Cinco sacrifice fly and an Ateneo error with JC Yang at bat. From there, Ateneo went to work on defense and stopped UP’s attempt.

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“Actually, it was a mistake on my part. I should not have put Paulo [Macasaet] there. I should not have let him pitch since kakarating lang niya,” Ateneo baseball program director Randy Dizer said on playing National Team pitcher Macasaet. “It’s too much for the kid. At least, Cojuangco pitched well and if magkakaproblema, I have Nacho Lozano pa.”

After a failed attempt close out the Maroons, Ateneo then bamboozled the opponent in the final inning, as if to make up for their mistake. The Blue Batters fired off nine more runs on their last turn at bat, making mincemeat of UP pitchers Balagtas’ and San Juan’s deliveries on the mound. Even the second unit of Ateneo with Maroon Phonso’s elder brother and Ateneo veteran Rapho Balagtas gave the Katipunan-based batters’ tactician Randy Dizer something to smile with and to think about. The demolition stopped at 26-9 in favor of the reigning champs.

“Defensive-wise ang sama ng nilaro nila pero hitting lumabas naman,” Dizer said. “As a coach, dapat magsama yung defense at yung hitting, hindi puwede hiwalayin yan. Pero I think they’re there, I was able play everybody and everybody delivered. That’s one thing hard for the coach e.”

The Blue Eagles also played their entire lineup in the game with almost the entire roster playing well in the game. “I always tell the players that they have to earn the right to be part of the first IX. Non-stop na naglalaban yang mga yan,” he added. “It’s a good problem for any coach.”

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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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