UAAP: Pineda shuts out UP in five innings pitched, Green Batters take opening game of UAAP 85 Finals

Returning to the diamond following a walk off victory in their Round Two matchup last April 15, the DLSU Green Batters rematched the UP Fighting Maroons in a tight opening game of the UAAP Season 85 Baseball Finals.

After coming in to close out the game from the mound for Taft’s finest sluggers, Joshua Pineda turned in a Player of the Game winning performance after shutting out the team from Diliman in five innings and putting up productive stints at bat.

Hot starts

The opening inning went smoothly for the Green Batters, scoring early on offense and denying hits at the bottom of the inning. With Renato Samuel’s at bat, a passed ball allowed a runner to cross home plate and give the Green Batters the lead, 1-0. Two runs-batted-in single from Pio Villamiel, followed by a UP error, allowed another run to score for DLSU, 4-0. The side retired quickly at the bottom of the inning, following a successful 1-2-3 inning from starting pitcher Vincent Flores.

In retaliation, the Fighting Maroons would respond at the top of the second inning with three swift outs of their own, denying the Green Batters a chance at building their lead. This was supplemented by UP’s strong showing in the batter’s box as the Green and White allowed five runs to score after allowing three run-scoring single base hits. At the end of the second inning, the team from Taft trailed, 5-4. The next inning followed a similar suit for La Salle as Villamiel would ground out into a double play to retire the side. At the bottom of the third, DLSU would allow one runner to score after a passed ball at home plate, UP remained ahead, 6-4. 

After another scoreless half-inning for La Salle, UP were able to keep their bats hot at the bottom of the fourth inning. A Kiel Agojo double and Ian Mercado single brought in two runs to extend the Fighting Maroons’ lead, 8-4.

Chipping right at it

Flores caught a pop fly at third base to give UP their first out. After seeing his side allow their seventh and eighth runs of the game, DLSU Coach Joseph Orillana decided to make a change at the mound, putting in lefty-pitcher Pineda with hopes of soothing the Green and White’s defensive woes. Soon after, DLSU tagged the Diliman-based sluggers with a beautiful double play after Lord Aragorn De Vera’s pick-up on a poorly-batted UP ball, seeing the contenders switch sides once again.

First in the batting order, Diaz hit a smart ball in front of UP’s center fielder Mercado to get on base. He was succeeded by Kajihara, who advanced Diaz to third while getting on second base via a ground rule double. UP intentionally walked Escaño, pacifying the veteran’s swings but setting the stage for De Vera, who looked to possibly hit a grand slam and tie up the ball game but was able to settle for a run-batted-in single. After seeing their lead shrink, 8-5, UP missed out on the double play, only managing to get Escaño out at second before De Vera filled up his spot at first.

Up next at bat was Samuel, who saw his centerfield fly turn into a one-for-one sacrifice hit, sending Kajihara home to cut the deficit down to two, 8-6. Succeeding him, De Vera scored courtesy of a one-run-batted-in single from Pineda, putting the Green Batters at the heels of the Fighting Maroons. Alcontin made contact for a ground ball down the left field along the foul line, allowing Villamiel to score before Pineda rounded third to secure home and the lead, 9-8. After his two runs-batted-in hit, Alcontin found himself on the wrong end of a miscommunication, dealing the Green and White their third out of the fifth to send the game to the sixth inning, 9-8.

At the bottom of the inning, Green Batters showcased their cohesive team defense, with Pineda’s curveball giving UP all sorts of problems and setting up the combo of Asuncion and Alcontin for three quick outs to hold down the fort and maintain the La Salle lead.

Lockdown defense

In the sixth inning, DLSU tanked three quick outs but managed to negate UP on the other side of the home plate. Diliman’s hitters could not find an answer to the swerve on Pineda’s breaking ball, allowing La Salle a shot to extend their lead in the top of the seventh. 

At the top of the inning, Escaño swung for the fences but fell short with UP’s left fielder, Agojo, making a clean catch to send him out. La Salle were still unable to find their footing on the offensive end in the seventh inning but remained steadfast on defense. Kajihara handed UP their second out of the seventh frame with a routine catch before right fielder Villamiel made a good read to swap sides with the scoreline still reading 9-8. 

Following this, Villamiel also produced for his side at bat come top of the eighth, getting to first before Pineda made a sacrifice play to send him to second. However the Green and White were unable to do more, going scoreless at the top of the inning. At the bottom of the eighth, catcher Samuel caught Natanauan stealing, tossing the ball to Alcontin for UP’s first out in the inning. Soon after, Alcontin managed to tag their opposition with another out before DLSU kept UP scoreless with an out at first base before Pineda struck out another Fighting Maroon to bring the game to its final inning.

The defending champions found it difficult to produce at the top of the ninth, but Pineda continued to throw heat from the Green and White mound to hold down the bottom of the frame. Unfazed by the pressure of the big dance, he caught De Castro reaching, slapping on the Fighting Maroons’ first out of the ninth. Succeeding this, Segui caught a flyball that flew just into his yard to put the team from Taft one out away from securing Game One. Facing Agojo next, Pineda completed a five-inning shutout by striking him out with another curveball, 9-8, allowing the Green Batters to go up, 1-0, in the series.

After this victory, DLSU will hope to take a decisive UAAP Season 85 Baseball Finals Game Two and take home their second straight crown—the tournament’s first since its cancellation in UAAP Season 82 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jaime de los Reyes

By Jaime de los Reyes

Diego Manzano

By Diego Manzano

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