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UAAP: New faces expected to shine as Green Batters aim for back-to-back title

After a grueling three-game Finals series against archrivals Ateneo, the DLSU Green Batters regained supremacy and captured the UAAP Season 81 baseball championship. It was a marvelous moment for the whole team, as the Lasallian community hollered their all-out support. However, this victorious feeling is not one that can last forever—whether ending in triumph or defeat, the somber reality is that there always exists a next season to move on to and prepare for. 

After their successful championship campaign, the Green-and-White have encountered their own share of obstacles. To shed light on what to expect of the Taft-based squad this season, team captain Ignacio Escaño, last year’s Most Valuable Player Diego Lozano, and head coach Joseph Orillana discuss the team’s preparations for their title defense.

New look

It was a difficult off-season for the Green-and-White, as the squad lost pivotal men from their title run. Kiko Gesmundo, Paolo Salud, Tuwi Park, and Boo Barandiaran all exhausted their playing years in the UAAP, while Angelo Tantuico, Bill Evangelista, and Rafael Pascual opted to forgo their playing years. 

Additionally, some of the more veteran members of this year’s squad had commitments to represent the national team in the BFA Asian Championships and Southeast Asian Games. Although they gained more experience on the international stage, it proved tough for them to prioritize training for the UAAP season. 

As such, the Green Batters’ recruitment process was a crucial aspect of the off-season period, needing to search for rookies who could step up and contribute right from the onset. The new Lasallians to be on the lookout for include third baseman Vince Flores, hailing from the Laguna campus, and Julius Diaz, formerly a Growling Tiger when he was awarded as Rookie of the Year in Season 80.

For the graduating Escaño, he believes the rookies are more than capable of producing in their specific roles. “I’m just trying to prepare them as much as [I] can for what to expect during the season, so that come game time, they’ll be ready,” the captain shares. “[We] are trying to make up for [their lack of experience] by instilling [our] work ethic in them and sharing our knowledge with them.”




Instilling the culture

With so many new faces in the lineup, there will always be the challenge of imparting the DLSU system and environment to them. Lozano emphasizes that leading by example is an integral part of a team’s success, “We try to push them to become better baseball players, because if we’re lax and we don’t correct their mistakes, then they won’t be able to grow like how we grew.”

Already thinking ahead, the veteran outfielder recognizes the importance of nurturing young talent, as he adds, “[The rookies will] probably have a leadership role [in the future] as well, so what we [want to] do is pass down what we’ve learned, and hopefully they could continue to improve.”

For Orillana and his staff, they have made some timely adjustments as well in their training sessions. “Sa training, it is more on game situation[s] and ‘yung balance of the team. [Nakapokus] kung saan ko sila puwede ilagay [na] position and kung [ano] ‘yung puwede maging adjustments,” the head coach discloses.

(Focusing on game situations and balance within the team, the trainings are meant to test out which positions the Batters can play in as well as other adjustments for team flexibility.) 

Orillana adds that he expects the chemistry and camaraderie of the squad to improve heading into the title defense, “‘Yung magkaroon sila ng teamwork, and at the same time, kahit galing sila sa iba’t ibang lugar and school. [Dapat] mangibabaw pa rinyung para silang magkakapatid.”

(Despite coming from different places and schools, I expect them to have teamwork. Above all, they should still treat each other as brothers.)

‘Win or go home’

With the loss of their veterans, both Escaño and Lozano believe that all of the teams have a shot at claiming the championship in the upcoming tournament. The young squads of the UST Growling Tigers and the AdU Soaring Falcons have now matured; while the ADMU Blue Eagles, who nearly took the crown from La Salle last year, have remained relatively intact. 

However, apart from skills, the mental aspect of the game could set the team from Taft apart from the competition. “If you don’t have that mental game, all the practice, all the hard work can be gone,” Lozano asserts. Citing DLSU baseball’s unmistakable “killer instinct and never-give-up [attitude]”, he further highlights, “These are some things you can’t practice everyday. It’s something you build into someone.”

Even though winning the title again this year will be no easy feat, the Green-and-White believe that setting their sights on the elusive trophy is the only way for them to translate all their diligence into gratifying victories. “Anything except the championship is a bust. We don’t care if we’re second or third [place]…The championship is all that matters. Every year that’s our mindset—that’s the culture we’ve established here,” reiterates Escaño, declaring that there have only ever been two possibilities for the Green Batters, “win or go home.”

Disclaimer: The LaSallian published the above article for its February print issue, released February 11, under the impression that the UAAP Season 82 tournament would push through as scheduled. On February 12, the UAAP’s Board of Trustees and Board of Managing Directors postponed matches indefinitely starting February 15 in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

As of February 25, the UAAP Board has released new schedules for the competition, announcing that the games are set to begin in March.

By Diego Vergel de Dios

By Alfonso Reyes

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