EVEN in a no bearing game for them, the De La Salle Green Batters still dug deep, storming back from an 11-run deficit to leave the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the dust, 15-12, on Saturday afternoon at the historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
La Salle swept the elimination round of the Philippine Baseball League's first conference, going 6-0 entering the do-or-die semis.
"Sobrang happy ako kasi nandun na yung winning attitude nila. Kahit non-bearing yung laro, pursigido pa rin sila na manalo kasi Ateneo yun e," said Green Batters head coach Joseph Orillana.
Entering the bottom end of the third inning, the Blue Eagles torched La Salle's rookie pitchers Marthy Rañada and Joshua Pineda with 12 runs on 10 hits. Ateneo's rally was highlighted by a three-run home run courtesy of Paulo Macasaet.
"Sabi ko sa kanila, bago mag-start yung game na gagamitin muna natin yung rookie pitchers natin para magka-exposure sila for the UAAP," disclosed Orillana, a champion UAAP pitcher during the early 2000s. "Nung lumamang sila ng malaki, isip namin kaya pa namin basta paisa-isa lang."
But when La Salle heated up, there was no stopping them.
After slicing the deficit to just five runs entering the seventh inning, the Green Batters went on a 6-run tear. A three-run double courtesy of UAAP Season 78 Finals MVP Boo Barandiaran tied the game at 12-all. A grounder by Paolo Casas brought home Barandiaran to give La Salle the lead for good.
It did not stop there as Diego Lozano hit a two-run homer to right field in the eighth inning to give La Salle the insurance runs needed to buck the Blue Eagles.
"Nakita ko na yung kumpyansa ni Diego sa paluan. Nandun na siya e. Alam na niya kung anong bola yung papaluin niya at timing," Orillana said about Lozano, who went 5-of-6 at-bat.
Luis Miñana took charge on the mound in the last five innings of the game, allowing two hits while fanning six batters.
Still, Ateneo was able to make the semifinals after the UST Golden Sox completed a 9th inning comeback against the NU Bulldogs later in the day, taking a 5-4 victory.
Itakura Parts Philippines Corporation Nationals whitewashed the also-ran UP Fighting Maroons in just seven innings, 24-0.
National Team shortstop Aids Bernardo led the lambasting with three RBI. The former Blue Eagle had two triples and two singles in the lopsided contest.
Former NU Bulldog Junmar Diarao also connected on a three-run HR in the first inning to set the tone for IPPC's 11-run start.
IPPC's staff, led by Diarao himself, allowed no hits.