MANILA – The Ateneo Blue Eagles started well, and finished even stronger to hand the Itakura Parts Philippines Corporation Nationals their first loss in the Philippine Baseball League, 10-7, on Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
Needing a strong start against an all-star squad, Blue Eagles broke in the pitching of national team mainstay Vladi Eguia, and scored two runs in the first inning.
Javi Macasaet punched in a 2-RBI double to start the offensive barrage for the Blue Eagles before the Nationals found the answer in the third inning to snatch the lead at 3-2.
Nonetheless, a six-run binge in the fourth to sixth innings finally put Ateneo at a position to close it out.
"Yung usual plan lang namin is to stay head. We have to maintain our confidence pa rin; and dapat yung palo namin tuluy-tuloy pa rin," said Ateneo's first-year coach, Bocc Bernardo.
Needing insurance runs to seal their second straight win of the tournament, it was substitute Rod Bitong's sacrifice fly to the right field that brought in three runs during the sixth inning, as IPPC also committed a fielding error in the process.
Ultimately, pitcher Nacho Lozano and the Ateneo defense closed it out in the ninth after retiring the last three batters.
"We have to stay relaxed, kasi nga this team is a really good team. They knew how to come back and take advantage of any situation. Kaya kung makakakuha kami ng paraan, kunin namin," Bernardo added.
With the win, Ateneo kept pace with league-leading De La Salle University as the Green Batters bagged their third straight win of the tournament after taking down the National University Bulldogs, 6-4, earlier in the day.
The Bulldogs scored four runs in the fourth inning to snag the lead at 4-2, but the Green Batters responded with a run and three more runs in their turn at-bat in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively to take the lead for good.
Senior pitcher Diego Lozano took care of business at the mound in the last two in innings, taking down NU's last six batters, three of which on strikeouts.
In the final game, the Adamson Soaring Falcons scored their first win, blasting the UST Golden Sox, 15-9.