NATIONAL University scored three runs in the ninth inning to turn back Ateneo, 9-8, in Game Two on Tuesday at the Rizal Ballpark and extend the UAAP baseball championship series to a deciding game.
Russel Dela Cruz blasted the walk-off single to push the winning run home and complete the come-from-behind effort after the Bulldogs trailed by two runs entering the final frame.
NU took advantage of a series of Ateneo miscues in the ninth and not even a spectacular out at the plate by the Blue Eagles could put the Bulldogs away.
Ateneo, bidding for its first UAAP baseball title since entering the league in 1978, hopes to clinch the crown in Game Three on Friday at 12 p.m., also at the Rizal ballpark.
NU coach Isaac Bacarisas said that he never gave up especially since the top of the batting order was due up in the ninth.
“Hangga’t hindi pa nakukuha ang third out, hindi pa tapos ang laro. Naniniwala ako sa batting order namin,” said Bacarisas.
Pitcher Miguel Salud, the hero of Game One after hurling a complete outing, was expected to clinch the title for Ateneo but Mike Gante walked and reached second base on a passed ball. Gante scored on a throwing error by Ateneo shortstop Adriane Bernardo that sent Jezreel Rosita to second base.
Trailing by just a run, Bryan Lumbres slammed a double to centerfield but outfielder Leandro Banzon made a perfect throw to catcher Dio Remollo just in time to tag the scampering Rosita out at home plate, sending Ateneo in a celebratory mood.
NU, however, continued to pounce on Salud as Johndel Tolosa tied the game with a double that scored Lumbres before reaching third on a wild pitch.
Salud intentionally walked MJ Gante for a potential double play but Dela Cruz’s bloop single ended the ballgame.
The loss spoiled Matt Laurel’s solo home run in the sixth that broke a 6-6 tie. An RBI single by Gabriel Bagamasbad in the seventh made it an 8-6 game.
NU trailed by as many as five when Ateneo scored three runs at the top of the third for a 6-1 lead. But the Bulldogs scored four at the bottom half of the third, then tied the game in the fourth.