Entering the day tied with the UST Growling Tigers for second place, every game is a must-win for the defending champions, the DLSU Green Batters. Unfortunately for the Lasallians, they were defeated by the NU Bulldogs, 5-3, in a heartbreaker yesterday at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Diamond. To complicate the scenario at hand, UST won its game against UP earlier in the day, which now gives the prior sole possession of the second finals spot.
La Salle was just unable to produce hits when it mattered, leaving multiple men on base. Along with some shaky defensive plays, DLSU was just unable to recreate the magic it used in its comeback win against the same team in the tournament’s first round. On the other side, the Bulldogs were able to make the most of their opportunities, stealing bases and taking advantage of every Green Batter lapse.
Kiko Gesmundo and Junmar Diarao both pitched good games for their respective teams, with the former striking out eight people over seven innings. The latter, however, was able to go the distance for his team, along with scoring the game’s tying run.
It was tightly contest contest, where the smallest of mistakes made the biggest of differences in the end results.
Right away, the Green Batters were given a great chance to score, with the bases loaded for Boo Barandiaran in the first inning. However, he would strikeout after some excellent pitching from Diarao.
At the top of the second inning, NU would strike first after Floro Malit was able to lift a fly ball over the head of right fielder, Tuwi Park. That scored Maiko Sugimoto and Clarance Caasalan to give the Bulldogs the early 2-0 lead.
La Salle would not strike back until the fourth inning, where Franco Hashimoto was able to stroke a two-RBI (Runs Batted In) single to knot the game at 2-all. The Green Batters would take their first lead at the bottom of the fifth inning after Ignacio Escano was driven in by Geof Magsadia. That put the score at 3-2, in favor of DLSU, after five innings of play.
Late game struggles
At the bottom of the sixth inning, with the score still unchanged, the Green Batters had a chance to extend their lead with Joaquin Bilbao and Hashimoto on second and third base with no outs. Though Pao Salud grounded out, DLSU still looked prime to take the lead with Diego Lozano at-bat. Unluckily for him, he popped up a bunt attempt that allowed NU to escape the inning unscathed following the double play.
With momentum on their side, NU’s Diarao immediately got into scoring position for the Bulldogs. While Kenneth Ybanez flew out, aggressive base running from the pitcher resulted in an errant throw to third base that allowed him to trot home with the game-tying run. Gesmundo, however, would be able to pitch La Salle out of further trouble.
At the bottom of the eighth inning, with the game still tied, the Green Batters had yet another golden opportunity to score with men on first and second base and no outs. Needing only one run, however, DLSU’s coach would again call for the bunt. The duo of Hashimoto and Salud, though, would both fail in their sacrifice attempts, which stalled the momentum of the team. Lozano would eventually groundout to end the inning still tied.
With Lozano now on the mound for DLSU, things were looking positive for La Salle after he was able to strike out Malit. Subsequently, on the contrary, both Jerome Tenorio and Diarao were able to stroke singles against the pitcher. The duo would then move up to scoring position to put NU in prime position to take the lead. Robin Libid would strike out, but Azriel Villalobos delivered down the stretch for the Bulldogs, grounding a 2-RBI single to center field to give NU the lead, 5-3, late in the ball game.
Needing to score, DLSU sent up the heart of its order at the bottom of the ninth inning. Escano, Tuwi Park, and Magsadia, however, would all fail to get on base, giving the Bulldogs just its third victory of the season.
Tough road to the Finals
For a slim chance of making the finals, La Salle will need to win its remaining two games. Meanwhile, UST will have to lose at least one of its remaining games. Along with this, the AdU Soaring Falcons have an identical record with the Green Batters, meaning that complications may arise between the three teams if they were to end the season with the same record.
The Green Batters will resume action versus the ADMU Blue Eagles on Wednesday, March 8, at 7 am in the same venue.