MANILA -- Ateneo de Manila University summoned all its strength in the 10th inning to edge De La Salle, 10-8, and moved a victory shy of repeating as baseball champion in UAAP Season 76 on Friday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Blue Eagles, who pounced on six costly errors by the league-leading Green Archers throughout the match, got the go-ahead runs from the duo of Leandro Banzon. Relief pitcher Adriane Ros Bernardo also provided the clincher for the Blue Eagles at the top of the 10th frame.
Thanks to two Green Batters' miscues, the Eagles gained a 1-0 edge in the race-to-two finals which they can wrap up in Game Two at noon on Tuesday.
Bernardo, who came in for Andrew Tan at the bottom of the ninth inning, retired all eight De La Salle batters he faced at crunch time.
The 4th year starting pitcher Tan, whose appearance on the mound was unexpectedly extended by Head Coach Randy Dizer, had a weary arm that allowed De La Salle to mount a comeback from a 3-8 deficit in the last two of his eight-inning appearance to knot the game at 8-all.
Dizer owned up to the mistake when he admitted later that he should have pulled out Tan in favor of Bernardo as early as the seventh inning.
“Ang sabi ko sa kanila every time na maghuddle dito (is) the only way where we can come back is that we show that we’re the defending champions, kailangang lumaban sila ng husto for them to get it from us,” Dizer said of their six-run blast against De La Salle’s starting pitcher Sebastian Uichico in the fourth inning where the Blue Eagles corked four hits to mount a five -run lead heading into the midway point of the game.
“It’s the errors that made the game more intense. If not, buka ‘yung laban. Yun ang nagpapaganda is that you could never tell (the outcome),” he added. “Pero sa akin, kahit nanalo kami sa extension, I am still picking our team as the underdog.”
Matt Laurel, Bernardo (one-for-five, double) and Banzon (one-for-four, single) led the Blue Eagles’ batting line with RBIs apiece.
Meanwhile, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets routed the University of Santo Tomas Tiger Cubs, 13-0, in the juniors’ division showdown earlier in the day. The Blue Eaglets (3-0) need a win in their final elimination match against La Salle Santiago Zobel to clinch the title outright.