MANILA, Philippines – One day after beating the IPPC Nationals, the De La Salle University Green Batters moved to within a win of an elimination round sweep in the Philippine Baseball League (PBL) by beating University of the Philippines (UP).
The Green Batters heated up at the right time to eventually crush the Fighting Maroons in just seven innings, 18-8, on Sunday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
With the triumph, La Salle improved to 5-0 and clinched the top seed in the semifinals.
La Salle coach Joseph Orillano was just glad that the Green Batters stepped up after reigning UAAP Athlete of the Year Kiko Gesmundo suffered a shoulder injury.
"Masaya ako para sa team. Sabi ko sa kanila, kahit wala si Kiko, kailangan nila mag-step up. Hindi naman puwede na aasa lang kami sa seniors. Kanila na ito e," said Orillana as Gesmundo's first inning dive resulted to a shoulder sprain.
The Fighting Maroons, who are coming off their first win of the season last Saturday, were able to keep pace with the league-leaders -- even picking up a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning.
Unfortunately for UP, they were plagued by errors at the bottom of the inning, while a 2-RBI single by left baseman Paolo Casas served as the go-ahead run.
It did not stop there as the Green Batters, who were already up 11-8 entering the seventh inning, punch in seven more runs - capped by Mark Tuballas' errant pitch that hit Diego Lozano with the bases loaded that resulted to the walk-off stoppage.
Tuwi Park was once again spectacular for La Salle, going 3-of-4 at-bat with five RBIs. Anton Acuna and Casas had three and two RBIs, respectively.
Graduating infielder Boo Borandiaran earned the win for La Salle, pitching the last two innings -- fanning two batters.
"Hopefully, sa UAAP magamit namin siya as pitcher," said Orillana as Barandiaran rarely pitched after his sophomore year. "Pinagfo-focus namin siya sa second [base], may times this season na magiging reliever siya. Hindi namin siya binibigla kasi galing siya sa injury."
Earlier in the day, Ateneo de Manila University snapped its two-game skid after escaping University of Santo Tomas, 13-12.
Gino Tantuico connected on the first home run of the tournament during the first inning.
In the last game of the triple-header, Adamson University kept its semis hopes alive after blasting National University in seven innings, 19-3.
Adamson will have to await the results of the games on Saturday, January 26 to see if it makes the Final 4.
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