After claiming the UAAP Baseball crown last season, the DLSU Green Batters are primed to defend their title this year. Meanwhile, the DLSU Lady Batters will aim to improve their sixth place finish last year. As the journey to the top begins at zero, both teams are determined and poised to make a run in their respective UAAP Season 79 campaigns.
Defending the crown
After ending a long championship drought early last year, the Green Batters go into this season a confident group. Though last year’s runner-up, the ADMU Blue Eagles, have reloaded and go into this season looking for redemption, DLSU will bring back many key pieces from last year’s squad, including co-finals MVP, Boo Barandiaran. The other co-finals MVP was Diego Lozano, who says, “[Each of us] have put in hours, day in and day out, in order to hopefully outperform ourselves last year.”
With that goal in mind, though, the team did lose a couple of key players, including captain Carlos Munoz, Quito Castro, Carl Minana, and AJ Francisco. Stepping up, however, are this year’s captain and co-captain, Andre Palacios and Paul Naguit, respectively. Along with the additions of rookies Pao Casas, Les Cabiling, and Raf Pascual, La Salle does look primed to repeat last year’s success. Lozano, however, believes that the team could achieve even more. “We strive to do our best to win every game and to hopefully sweep the first and second round.”
Sweeping the eliminations was something the team could not do last year. And, while ADMU looks like DLSU’s biggest challenge to the crown, a team like the NU Bulldogs, whom the Green Batters lost to last year, still remain a threat. Also, an improved UP Fighting Maroons squad could prove to be more than just a walk-over this upcoming season.
As a team, Lozano emphasizes that they only have one goal in mind: winning the championship. “We aim to become back-to-back champs, so we can leave a mark for future generations to come.” When asked what needed to be done in order to repeat, the co-Finals MVP answered, “By continuing to do what we have been doing last year, which is to keep a humble mindset and to take one game at a time.” He continued, “By applying what we have learned during our losses last season, and using [it] as a source of motivation, in order for us not to repeat this error.
No way but up for Softbelles
For the Softbelles, team captain Jen Gomez hopes to lead her team to the playoffs after two years of not making it out of the eliminations. “Ini-expect namin na maka-Final Four kami this season.”
The Lady Batters’ preparations included getting back to basics as they focused on their batting to fuel some much-needed offense. Likewise, team chemistry and cohesiveness will be a key for them throughout the season.
Meanwhile, Gomez cited that focus will be an area where the Lady Batters need to work on, as it was an evident problem last year. In order to address this, the team held frequent team meetings to ensure that every player was on the same page.
With only Vanessa Borbon and Mary Joy Son graduating from last season, the Softbelles added three rookies to their lineup, namely Pamela Concepcion, Roselle Dela Rosa, and Raisa Isabel Joseph. Coming back with Gomez include mainstays catcher Pat Belarmino and pitcher Jamica Arriabas, both of whom showed their wares in notable victories against powerhouse teams NU and UP last season.
Although the AdU Lady Falcons are still the favorites to defend their championship for a record seventh straight year, Gomez cited that most of the former’s key players graduated, thus leveling the playing field for all schools.
The Softbelles open their campaign on Saturday, Febraury 4, at 10 am against the NU Lady Bulldogs. Meanwhile, the Green Batters will soon follow on Sunday, February 5, at 10:30 am as they face the UP Fighting Maroons. Both games will be at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Diamond.