The University of the Philippines showcased its depth in the UAAP Season 85 Baseball tournament opener, overwhelming defending champion De La Salle University, 11-7, on Sunday (Mar. 12) at the UP Diliman Baseball Field.
During Season 81, the Fighting Maroons only recorded two wins, ending up last in the six-team field.
This time around, longtime UP head coach Anthony Dizer did not encounter any issues in clearing eligibility for his players, unlike in previous seasons. The Fighting Maroons have seven rookies in their lineup, the majority of whom came from Tanauan, Batangas.
“Our preparation was good, thanks to our manager Mike Asuncion and Dean Kiko Diaz. We were able to put in the necessary work for this season and get the recruits that we wanted,” said Dizer, who also noted that having their field has benefited them.
“This is the first time that I don’t have any problems with my players. All of them are eligible, and I also have two university scholars and six college scholars. You can see the reform, really 360-degrees,” he continued.
UP immediately flaunted its battery right from the beginning, with Ian Mercado, Karl Liwanagan, VJ Mangahas, captain Mark Tuballas, and Mark Liwanagan all contributing runs to give their team a 5-1 lead to end the opening inning.
Although an error-filled third inning tied the game at 6-all, John Dela Cruz, who replaced Kenneth Torres in the fourth inning, and Allen Mercado, who entered in the seventh inning, were able to hold the fort.
Meanwhile, La Salle’s second pitcher, Aragorn De Vera, struggled with his pitching in the sixth inning, leading to a five-run, three-hit inning for UP.
“In the third inning, we committed crucial errors, but that’s understandable since it’s just our first game, and our shortstop (Luciano Asuncion) is still a rookie. But we were able to come back,” said Dizer.
Tuballas, who is in his final year, went 2-of-5 at-bat with a double and a triple that resulted in an RBI. Mercado and Asuncion both had two RBIs each.
Winning pitcher Dela Cruz only allowed one hit in 3.5 innings pitched.
UAAP Season 79 MVP Iggy Escano of La Salle went 2-of-5 at-bat, while Vincent Flores had four RBIs, highlighted by a three-run dinger in the third inning.