The University of the Philippines (UP) Baseball Team beat the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, 7-3, today, March 10 at Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

The win is the Baseball Team’s second of the season, with their first also at the expense of the Tigers. Despite this, UP came into the game seeing the battle as a must-win after suffering a total of five losses this season.

Even with a promising start where star rookie pitcher Gino Yang struck out a batter, UP had a rough opening to the game. The Maroons went scoreless through the first two innings, and allowed UST to make a run that put UP down 1-0 through the first inning.

The bad luck continued in the third inning, as Gino Yang hyperextended his elbow and had to sit out the rest of the game. This momentarily shocked the Diliman squad, as Yang was the centerpiece of UP’s previous takedown of the Tigers.

With their star rookie out, the Maroons had to adjust by putting Allen Mercado on the mound who managed to pitch phenomenally when he forced UST into a quick three outs.

Once UP took their turn to bat, everything fell into place for the Maroons. Uno Landicho, Karl Liwanagan, and Phonso Balagtas all batted well, getting UP into third base very early in the inning.

All three would make their way home, putting UP up 3-1, with no outs. But this wouldn’t be UP’s last points of the inning, as Gabby Yang ran it home following a strong batting display by Kouichi Igarashi. UP ended the third inning with an authoritative score of 4-1.

On the strong batting of UP in the third inning, Captain Paco Neri said “we always knew from the beginning we’re a hitting team. And finally, after how long, napakita namin yung kakayahan namin sa palo.”

The fourth inning gave State U a brief scare, as UST seemed to pull out all the stops in trying to cut the lead. A series for nervous errors for the Maroons allowed the Growling Tigers to load their basemen on second and third, providing a very clear threat to the lead that UP mustered in the previous inning. But Igarashi made his defensive presence felt, catching a flyball, and forcing two outs before UST could score.

Pressure and fatigue seemed to get to UP in the fifth inning, as miscommunication among the Maroons allowed UST to escape with two runs. But UP forced UST out, and despite remaining scoreless until the sixth inning, paced UST and maintained the precarious 4-3 lead.

Once the seventh inning came around, so did UP’s good fortunes. Uno Landicho completed a run, putting UP up 5-3. During Landicho’s run, Phonso Balagtas made a crucial play in keeping UP’s lead by securing second base off of his hit.

Balagtas and Liwanagan would then complete runs of their own, putting UP up by four points, and punctuating the exclamation mark on an intense game. The Maroons, already feeling the scent of victory, kept their lead through the eighth and ninth innings, until they won, 7-3.

The victory was specifically sweet for UP, coming off a hard loss from Ateneo. However, team captain Neri said that the loss allowed them to regroup properly.

“Usually we always look at the good side of the game, but I stressed to the team that we can’t keep doing that,” Neri said “We have to move on and embrace the mistakes, and that was a lot.”

Neri said that they made sure to focus on the hitting, as that was the deciding factor in their loss against Ateneo. But even coming into a faceoff against UST – a team they beat before – Neri warned his teammates to not get comfortable.

This managed discomfort is something UP will carry on to its next game having to  play without the services of star pitcher Gino Yang. However, Coach Anthony Dizer said that the Maroons will keep fighting despite the loss of Yang. “I will trust my pitchers – Allen Mercado and Kenneth Mariñas,” said Dizer, “and the rest of the team too, even the rookies.”

Pitcher Mariñas echoed the statement, saying that while he was shocked by Yang’s injury, he is excited to step up to the challenge. “Nagulat ako syempre, kasi magaling na pitcher si Gino,” said Mariñas, “pero always ready lang ako.”

UP currently sits at a middling record of 2-5. They face their next challenge this Wednesday, March 10, against the Adamson Soaring Falcons. TNP

Photo by Andrew Mencias

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