ATENEO took advantage of an error-prone De La Salle squad but still needed the 10th inning to thwart a late comeback attempt by its bitter foe for a 10-8 win Friday at the Rizal Memorial ballpark to grab the upperhand in the Finals of the UAAP Season 76 baseball tournament.
The reigning and defending champion moved one win away from retaining its title by fending off a late Green Archers rally in Game One of the best-of-three series.
Ateneo, which finished second behind La Salle at the end of the elimination round, goes for a series sweep when Game Two is played on Tuesday at the same baseball venue.
Game time is at 12 p.m.
Ateneo coach Randy Dizer however, refused to be carried away by the Game One victory.
“We are still the underdogs,” stressed Dizer. “Kahit na defending champions kami, we were beaten twice. The only thing na may advantage kami is ‘yung playing twice in the finals. Experience-wise, we have the advantage. Pero kahit nanalo kami, we are still the underdogs.”
Leonardo Banzon reached home on a fielding error to break an 8-8 tie in the 10th before Kevin Ramos’ bases-loaded sacrifice fly gave the Blue Eagles a two-run lead that eventually settled the score.
La Salle came roaring back and tied the game after a three-run eighth despite five errors and several passed balls prior to the rally.
Yet, the Archers’ miscues came back to haunt them in the deciding inning.
After stealing second with one out, Banzon easily went home for a 9-8 lead on La Salle’s sixth error of the game after Archer pitcher Carlos Munoz dropped a supposed routine groundout on Adrian Bernardo at first base.
Ramos’ long sacrifice fly out with the bases full for a two-run cushion scored Bernardo, who only issued a walk as a relief pitcher in the bottom half of the 10th to pick up the win.
Dizer played down the six errors La Salle tallied in the game that led to the win.
“Just like us, they were able to come back because of our crucial errors,” said Dizer.
Felix Imperial, Edward Flores, and Paul Naguit had run-scoring hits to tuck La Salle’s early lead to 3-1 in the second inning.
In the fourth, Dio Remollo’s two-run groundball put Ateneo up, 4-3. The Eagles hiked their lead, 7-3, after catcher Naguit dropped a playable two-out pop-up that the champions four more runs.
After La Salle had two runs in the seventh, Naguit redeemed himself in the eighth with an RBI single before Basti Uichico tied the game later on a groundball pushing two runs to tie the game, 8-8.
Ateneo 010 601 000 2 10 9 0
DLSU 030 000 230 0 8 11 6