La Salle captures UAAP baseball title, slips past Ateneo in thrilling finish
MANILA, Philippines—A clutch performance propelled De La Salle past Ateneo, 11-9, to reclaim the title in the UAAP Season 81 baseball tournament Friday at Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
Kiko Gesmundo came up big down the stretch, blasting a two-run homer at the top of the ninth to lift before the Green Batters pulled off a strong defensive stop with a beautiful double play in the bottom of the ninth to crush the hopes of the Blue Eagles.
“It’s in them, the one who will determine this game is the team who wants to win more and the players proved that. I always tell them that they can do that,” said La Salle head coach Joseph Orillana, once a pitcher for the Green Batters, after winning his second title as mentor.
La Salle’s march to the title wasn’t paved with the best of roads as Ateneo went mental in the bottom of the eighth.
The Blue Eagles trailed 5-9 heading into the inning before rallying back with four runs to tie the game at 9-9 after Dino Altomonte’s pop-fly sent Javi Macasaet to home plate.
The title, La Salle’s second in three years and fifth overall, was a fitting gift to Finals MVP Gesmundo, Best Hitter Boo Barandiaran, Paulo Salud, Tuwi Park, Joaqui Bilbao, and Gabo Pineda who all ended their collegiate careers as champions.
La Salle’s Diego Lozano was stellar for the Green Batters winning the Season MVP, the Best Slugger award after posting an .842 slugging average, and the Most Homeruns plum with three.
Another Green Batter to win an individual award was Iggy Escaño who took the Most RBIs with 18 this season.
La Salle won the opening game, 9-7, before dropping Game 2, 3-7.