De La Salle University’s Baseball and Softball teams went in opposite directions in UAAP Season 76, with the DLSU Green Batters making it to the finals and securing a runner-up finish while on the other hand, the DLSU Softbelles ended their season with a dismal 2-10 win-loss record.
After a disappointing sixth place finish last season, the DLSU Green Batters were not expected to make much noise entering UAAP Season 76. They opened their season with two wins against last year’s finalists, the NU Bulldogs and the ADMU Blue Eagles, and went on to top the eliminations with a 9-1 win-loss record.
The Green Batters’ head coach Joseph Orillana shares, “Very thankful ako kasi we got this far. Wala namang nagexpect na aabot kami ng ganito kalayo pero dahil nag pursige tayo at ginusto naming ipakita sa baseball community na ang La Salle threat din pati sa baseball, so nagpakilala din kami.”
Though they stumbled in the finals and settled with second place, Carlos Munoz was named the Best Hitter of UAAP 76 while at the same time being tied with teammate Basti Uichico and two others from rival schools for the most stolen bases this season.
The Batters started off strong, beating NU in the season opener with a score of 5-2. They then faced the defending champions, ADMU, with a score of 13-6. Their next games were against UST (14-4), AdU (4-3) and UP (8-7) to seal their sweep of the first round.
Momentum didn’t fade as the Green & White pounced on UST in the first game of the second half, 16-7. This put their win streak at six. It, however, ended there as the first loss of the season was handed to them by NU, 4-2 and a 6-1 record. The Green Batters then beat UP, 14-11 to secure a finals berth. Wins against AdU (11-1) and ADMU (11-10), capped the Green Batters’ season.
“Nagulat ako nung regular season kasi madami akong players off the bench na nagdeliver, pero nung umabot kami ng championship nagiba laro nila,” adds Orillana when asked about what surprised him the most about his team’s run.
The Green Batters went 9-1 this season, finishing first and ahead of 7-3 ADMU in the eliminations. The Blue Eagles also secured a finals berth.
The Green Batters found themselves down early in the first game of the finals due to a six run fourth inning by the Blue Eagles and several errors on their part. However, a late rally would eventually tie the game at eight points apiece in the eighth inning. The Green-and-White had a chance to win it in the ninth inning, but failed to bring the runner home, forcing the game to go into extra innings.
Ateneo only needed another inning, as they scored an additional two runs in the tenth canto to put the game out of reach. The Blue Eagles moved within a win of the championship as they defeated the Green Batters, 10-8.
Facing a do-or-die situation, the Green Batters failed to extend the series as they lost to Ateneo once more, 8-3, crowing ADMU as the champions of the UAAP for the second consecutive year.
Ateneo scored the first point of the second finals game to end the first inning. Trying to respond at the top of the second inning, the Green Batters loaded the bases with no outs. However, they failed to capitalize, and ended the top of the inning scoreless.
ADMU would score another run in the second inning, prompting a pitching change that brought in Uichico to replace Miguel Olmos at the mound. The Blue Eagles would score another run in the third inning and they added another four runs in the fourth, promoting another pitching change that saw Muñoz take the mound for DLSU with them trailing. He would end up finishing the game.
The seventh inning brought some hope for the Green Batters as Muñoz started it with a home run. A triple by Edward Flores brought a runner home and an RBI was earned by Pocholo Dominguez before the inning ended, making the score 8-3 in favor of ADMU. It would turn out to be the last points of the game, as both teams were held scoreless in the final two innings.
Ateneo’s Andy Tan was named the season’s Most Valuable Player.
Despite the loss, it was not a season of disappointment for La Salle. Orillana chimes in saying, “Although happy na din kasi kahit papano kasi nakarating kami dito (sa finals), walang nagexpect na aabot kami dito kasi coming from second to the last place eh, tapos bigla kaming aabot sa championship.”
New season, same story
The Softbelles, however, were not as successful as their male counterparts. Having a rough first round, with defeats to the NU Lady Bulldogs, the UP Lady Maroons, the AdU Lady Falcons, the UE Lady Warriors and the UST Tigresses, the Softbelles managed to pick up their only victory of the first round in their third game of the season against the ADMU Lady Eagles.
Their second half was not different from the first. They lost the same number of matches against the same teams, with their second overall win coming once again against Ateneo. The Softbelles fell against the undefeated Adamson Lady Falcons in their final match, 8-1. They ended the season with a 2-10 record, similar to the season before. The Softbelles stand at sixth place at the end of this season, tied with the Lady Eagles for the worst record in the league.
The Softbelles were hampered as they lost one player due to eligibility complications in the second round. The team’s student manager Chelsea Santos shares, “There was one player who graduated during [DLSU’s] second term. She played in the first half but as ineligible to play in the 2nd half of the tournament.”
However, unlike last season, the Softbelles were able to keep up with their rivals. Santos chimes in saying, “In several games, we were behind by a mere one or two runs–a feat that they were unable to do the previous year.”
With that said, the team was not as bad as their record suggested as they had an overhauled and inexperienced roster. “This year, the team welcomed eight rookies: one college sophomore and seven freshmen. Two of the aforementioned freshmen rookies played in the games as pitchers, the most difficult position on the field which would determine how many hit or walks would be given. This position is very critical given that last year the team lacked in strong pitchers,” adds Santos.
Back to the drawing board
Following the end of the season, the Green Batters will lose four of their players as have played their final season. The corner infield spots will now be vacant as Flores and Imperial, who primarily played first and third base respectively this season will now be leaving. Bastie Uichico, who has played numerous positions such as second base and pitcher played his final game last February 18. Outfielder Chris Perlas will be leaving as well.
Orillana discusses what the team loses when these veterans leave the team as he says, “Malaki din nacontribute nila at thankful din ako sa pagpursige nila, medyo mahihirapan lang ako dahil mawawalan ako ng apat na beterano, dalawa sakanila pitcher. Aasa na lang ako sa mga mas bata kong players na mag step up at sa mga bagong papasok na players.”
La Salle must now look to the next batch of rookies in order to compensate for the loss. Though the incoming batch of rookies has yet to be named, several top flight recruits have already committed to DLSU.
“Mamamaintain naming yun kasi para sakin balanse pa din team ko. Yung mga aalis may mga bagong papasok na papalit sakanila,” concludes Orillana.