It was not the season they had hoped for, but at least the Green Batters did their part.
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The De La Salle University Green Batters staved-off the upset-hungry University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons after rallying back from a 5-2 deficit, taking a 9-5 victory in their season finale, Sunday morning at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
La Salle needed a win to keep their Finals hopes alive but UST’s 9-4 win over Ateneo later in the day shattered all their hopes. As a consolation, the Green Batters have locked third place. It will now just depend on the result of the suspended 11th inning game between Adamson and UST on whether La Salle will have co-bronze medalists.
“Sabi ko lang sa kanila, ‘just do your part na maipanalo ‘to. Bahala na kung gusto talaga ni Lord ito para sa atin,'” La Salle head coach Joseph Orillana said about the win.
Down 5-3 entering the eighth inning, the Green Batters came alive after connecting just four times prior. Graduating UP reliever Gab Rodriguez was lambasted by La Salle, as they were able to score six runs in the inning.
Providing the spark for the Green Batters was co-captain Paul Naguit. The La Salle catcher played his best game of the tournament, going 2-of-2 at bat. And his surprising bunt during the inning gave the Green Batters two runs that tied the game.
Runs by Arvin Herrera, Naguit himself, graduating senior Franco Hashimoto, and Diego Lozano — the last two coming from a huge double by power hitter Iggy Escano — provided the Taft-based squad enough cushion entering the final inning. Escano finished the game with 3 RBIs.
“Sila na yun at pinakita nila kung how much they wanted to win. Tinanong ko sila, lalaban pa ba tayo? Yung UP nothing to lose pero sa amin may bearing pa ito,” Orillana said about the team’s huddle prior to the huge run. “You have to do something and basta maniwala lang sila na kaya nila.”
Lozano closed out the game by fanning out four of the six batters he faced.
La Salle’s pitching staff though struggled to hold UP in the first three innings of the game.
UP was able to connect five times against La Salle ace Boo Barandiaran during that frame, highlighted by a solo home run by Roque Banzon during the second inning. Runs by Paulo Salud and Kiko Gesmundo momentarily gave La Salle the lead during the third inning but UP answered right back with four runs at the bottom end to put UP right back up before the huge eighth inning rally by the Green Batters.
UP skipper Jose Miguel San Juan, Karl Peralta, and Gab Rodriguez all played their last UAAP game. For La Salle, short stop Franco Hashimoto played his last UAAP game as well.
Even though they were not able to defend their crown, Orillana was just proud with the way his team responded when their backs against the wall.
“Masaya kahit papaano dahil nag-respond sila na kailangan namin manalo dito. Itong season, maraming frustrations sa amin. May mga ine-expect ako na mag-deliver, mga seniors, na hindi nag-deliver,” the one-time UAAP champion coach shared. “Inisip ko na lang pag off sila, wala na talagang magagawa, too late to adjust pero at least lumaban sila.”