MANILA, Philippines – Competing in what was a no-bearing game for them, the De La Salle Green Batters dug deep to storm back from an 11-run deficit and stun the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 15-12, on Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
With the win, La Salle completed a sweep of the elimination round of the Philippine Baseball League's first conference, going 6-0 heading into the do-or-die semifinal phase.
"Sobrang happy ako kasi nandun na yung winning attitude nila. Kahit non-bearing yung laro, pursigido pa rin sila na manalo kasi Ateneo yun e," said Green Batters head coach Joseph Orillana.
Entering the bottom end of the third inning, the Blue Eagles torched La Salle's rookie pitchers Marthy Rañada and Joshua Pineda to the tune of 12 runs on 10 hits.
Ateneo's rally was highlighted by a three-run home run courtesy of Paulo Macasaet.
"Sabi ko sa kanila, bago mag-start yung game na gagamitin muna natin yung rookie pitchers natin para magka-exposure sila for the UAAP," disclosed Orillana, himself a champion UAAP pitcher during the early 2000s. "Nung lumamang sila ng malaki, isip namin kaya pa namin basta paisa-isa lang."
When La Salle heated up, there was no stopping them.
After slicing the deficit to just five runs entering the seventh inning, the Green Batters went on a 6-run tear. A three-run double courtesy of UAAP Season 78 Finals MVP Boo Barandiaran tied the game at 12-all.
A grounder by Paolo Casas brought home Barandiaran to give La Salle the lead for good afterwards.
It did not stop there as Diego Lozano knocked off a two-run homer to right field in the eighth inning to give La Salle the insurance runs needed to buck the Blue Eagles.
"Nakita ko na yung kumpyansa ni Diego sa paluan. Nandun na siya e. Alam na niya kung anong bola yung papaluin niya at timing," Orillana said about Lozano, who went 5-of-6 at-bat.
Luis Miñana took charge on the mound in the last five innings of the game, only allowing two hits after his staff allowed 12 prior to the fifth inning while fanning six batters.
Despite the loss, Ateneo was able to make the semifinals after the UST Golden Sox completed a 9th inning comeback against the NU Bulldogs later in the day, taking a 5-4 victory.
To start the triple header, the Itakura Parts Philippines Corporation Nationals whitewashed the also-ran UP Fighting Maroons in just seven innings, 24-0.
National Team shortstop Aids Bernardo led the lambasting with three RBIs. The former Blue Eagle had two triples and two singles in the lopsided contest.
Former NU Bulldog Junmar Diarao also connected on a three-run HR in the first inning to set the tone for IPPC's 11-run start.
IPPC's staff, led by Diarao himself, allowed no hits in the game. However, Diarao could not complete the perfect game as the contest could not complete a full game due to the scoreline.
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