In their final game of the elimination rounds, the DLSU Green Batters were able to overcome the UP Fighting Maroons, 9-5, earlier today at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Diamond. In what has been its trademark this season, La Salle had to come back after trailing early to come away with the much needed victory.
Boo Barandiaran started the game for the defending champions, but was ineffective as he was unable to make it out of the third inning. Kiko Gesmundo and Diego Lozano, however, pitched the last six and third innings for DLSU and were both equally dominant as they were able to keep the UP offense at bay.
On the other side, Timothy Cu pitched a respectable game, giving up just two runs before giving way to the graduating Gab Rodriguez. For a team that lost 19-1 to its counterpart in the first round, UP showed much improvement, even though it finished the season with no wins.
Though the team from Katipunan was able to take an early 1-0 lead, the Green Batters immediately responded in the third inning, scoring two runs with a sacrifice fly from Ignacio Escano and an RBI single from Geof Magsadia.
Disaster struck, though, for DLSU at the bottom of the inning, when the Fighting Maroons broke out for four runs. Led off by a double from catcher Javier Lopez, SJ San Juan immediately drove him in with a triple. Alphonso Balagtas would then hit a sacrifice fly that let UP retake the lead, 3-2.
With Gabby Yang at second base, DLSU coach Joseph Orillana would ask for pitching chance, putting in Les Cabiling for Barandiaran. Unfortunately for Cabiling, he was not able to get an out, as he let another two runs score, before leaving the bases loaded for the new pitcher, Gesmundo. The latter would then induce a ground ball out from Lopez to stop the bleeding and the inning for La Salle.
The two teams would then trade scoreless innings before DLSU had the perfect opportunity to score after loading the bases to start the seventh inning. To trim the lead to two, Lozano would hit a sacrifice fly with still two outs for the Green Batters to work with. Rodriguez, however, would be able to induce an inning double play to keep the Fighting Maroons in front, 5-3.
Entering the eighth inning, La Salle showed a sense of urgency, with regard to the required result of this game. Showing renewed purpose, the team from Taft would yet again load the bases to start the inning. This time, however, the team would not waste the opportunity.
In a very gutsy call, Paul Naguit bunted with the bases loaded. Catching everyone off guard, UP’s defense would not be able to react quickly enough to stop not one, but two DLSU baserunners from scoring. With that, La Salle knotted the game at five runs a side.
Not stopping there, Franco Hashimoto and Paolo Salud would each add RBIs of their own to extend the Green Batter lead, 7-5. To make thing worse for UP, Escano would hit a clinching two-run double down the right field line that ultimately put La Salle up by four runs.
Now with lead, all Lozano had to do was close out the game. In dominant fashion, last year’s co-finals MVP would strike out four of six UP hitters he would face to give DLSU its sixth win of the season.
With its elimination round games now over, La Salle had to wait for the results of the second place UST Growling Tigers’ remaining games. DLSU needed UST to lose to both the ADMU Blue Eagles and AdU Soaring Falcons just to tie the prior in the standings.
Unfortunately for the defending champions, they are now eliminated from the tournament after ADMU fell to UST, 9-4, later on in the day.
Now, the Green Batters will have to wait for further results to know whether they will conclude the tournament in third or fourth place. It is a disappointing finish for a team that expected nothing less than a repeat of last year’s success.