MANILA, Philippines – The field may have been different, but the result was the same: Adamson University overcame De La Salle University to prove that they are kings of the diamond.
Eleven months after winning the UAAP Season 81 crown, the Soaring Falcons extended their dominance over the Green Batters with a 9-4 win in the finals of the inaugural Philippine Baseball League (PBL) on Sunday.
It was quite the unexpected run to the top for the third-seeded Falcons, who entered the semifinals with just a 3-3 win-loss record. Adamson was an underdog against La Salle, as the Green Batters won their first seven games heading into the winner-take-all championship game.
But after opening their campaign with back-to-back losses – including an 11-run shutout against La Salle on opening day – the Soaring Falcons went "back to basics."
"Naka-recover kami dun sa masamang simula namin. Nung nag 0-2 kami, nag-back to basics kami sa training," shared Adamson head coach Orlando Binarao. "Sabi ko nga sa kanila, 'Kailangan natin ng mas malalim na training para bumalik yung UAAP-form nila.'"
Unlike their elimination round encounter, Adamson kept pace with La Salle during the first two innings, keeping the score knotted at 2-all.
In the fourth inning, outfielder Kyle Villafana and Steven Manaig connected on consecutive base hits to bring home rookie first baseman Aaron Mercado and Bryan Castillo, respectively.
A triple by Castillo in the fifth inning brought home Mercado once more, and Adamson punched in two more insurance runs in the ninth inning.
Mercado had four hits and an RBI in the contest while Castillo had 2 RBIs.
Christian Maigue proved to be a rock on the mound. Subbing in for Michael Catalan during the first inning, the product of Luyos National High School only yielded five hits for just one run in the eight innings he pitched while striking out six Green Batters.
"Kailangan pang maging matibay ng pitchers namin. Ang lamang lang namin siguro sa ibang team 'yung conditioning namin," said Binarao about his staff.
La Salle did not have reigning UAAP Athlete of the Year Kiko Gesmundo for the third straight game due to a shoulder injury. He is set to make his return on February 17 when the UAAP Season 81 tournament rolls around.
Earlier in the day, Ateneo de Manila University salvaged bronze after blasting the Itakura Parts Philippines Corporation Nationals, 10-2.
During the awarding ceremony, PABA secretary-general Jose "Pepe" Munoz vowed that the PBL will have a second conference immediately after the UAAP.
"It was very good, personally I enjoyed it. I was very happy because, although it's a preseason team for the UAAP, they took it very seriously. When we got to the middle part of the season, we were seeing UAAP-quality games," said Munoz.
"We want to have one more conference for the PBL come April and May. We do need games because our baseball players need more games. Definitely, we will have more teams like PUP, RTU, and then two more commercial teams, and, of course, Philippine Air Force. We are targeting twelve teams for the next conference."
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