GINO Tantuico was 0-6 at the plate and the Ateneo catcher was coming off a costly error that enabled University of Santo Tomas to come back from six runs down and tie Game Two of the UAAP Season 79 baseball finals.
Blue Eagles coach Randy Dizer had a big decision to make - pull out his struggling star or leave him in the field.
In the end, Dizer kept the faith.
Tantuico, in turn, repaid the coach's trust by slamming a two-run double in the 12th inning of the five-hour classic, breaking an 11-11 tie and leading the Blue Eagles to the title-clinching 14-12 win over the UST Golden Sox on Friday at the Rizal ballpark.
The big hit came as a big relief for the 20-year-old catcher, who, placed in the same situation in last year's finals, failed to deliver as the Blue Eagles lost to rival La Salle, ending their quest for a fourth successive title.
“I was really nervous because I was put in the same situation last year. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to perform,” said Tantuico after the Blue Eagles completed a sweep of the best-of-three finals.
“But this time, I want to make bawi. I just remembered the hardwork that we put in this season and I want to finish it already. They didn’t score for a reason so we know we are going to end it already,” he added.
“I was nervous but once I saw the ball, I don’t know, I can’t explain it.”
Dizer admitted the coaching staff was on the verge of taking Tantuico out of the game because of his struggles. But he decided against it at the last minute.
“Hindi ko siya tinatanggal. Pinag-uusapan na namin ng coaching staff na tanggalin na siya kasi wala siyang tinatama," said the Ateneo coach.
"Ang akin lang is, I believe in him na lalabas. Everytime na hindi pa siya papalo, tinawagan ko, sabi ko, 'I’m not taking you out because I believe you will deliver.'
"And he delivered at crunch time,” said Dizer.
Tantuico said he became even more motivated when he got wind of the coaching staff's plan to sit him.
“That pushed me even more. I already heard my coaches talking and they were thinking of taking me out. So that pushed me even more. I want to prove them wrong,” said Tantuico.
“I knew that if I emotionally broke down, that will affect my team. So I just kept my calm,” he added.