Centerfielder Ian Mercado hit an inside-the-park homer in the seventh inning as University of the Philippines defeated University of Santo Tomas, 11-3, to end its first round in the UAAP Season 85 Baseball tournament with a bounce-back win on Sunday, Mar. 26, at the UP Diliman Baseball Field.
The RP Blu Boys outfielder blasted a pitch from Geoffrey Apolinario to left field, scoring rightfielder Kiel Agojo and second baseman Lorenzo De Castro, bringing the Fighting Maroons to a 10-1 advantage. That eventually turned out to be the dagger as UP finished with a 4-1 record and the top spot heading into the second round of eliminations.
“Siguro, sa tingin ko, medyo nagising na sila during our last game. We are expecting too much from the team, tapos masyado silang nag-rely na malakas sila, nag-relax sila,” coach Anthony Dizer recalled on their 8-5 loss against National University last Wednesday.
“Now, they were able to bounce back. Ang sabi ko, ‘If you want to become number 1, you have to beat them convincingly.’ So, ayan, nagawa naman nila ngayon,” he added.
Mercado led UP with three hits, including the homer, in five at-bats, scoring four RBIs and crossing home twice. The Fighting Maroons’ first batter was supported by the bench mob, most notably former UST Junior Golden Sox Miggy Reyes.
The rookie outfielder, who batted for Agojo, added two runs on his lone hit, scoring Kennedy Torres and Mark Liwanagan.
Dizer was happy that these players from the dugout delivered, saying, “This is the strength of our team, anyone, kahit sino pwede kung hugutin pwedeng pumalit. Mas maganda pa nga nilaro nung iba.”
Allen Mercado limited UST to one run in four hits in six and one-third innings. Axl Vispo then closed it out, allowing two runs in four hits for the Golden Sox.
UST got on the board in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to two, 1-3, after second baseman Justine Rosales scored off a Junel Cruz hit. Two runs from the squad were not enough to change the scoreline and the result.
Cruz, a first baseman, ended as the lone bright spot for the Golden Sox on offense with two hits in three at-bats, while Rosales and center fielder Steve Dominguez added one single each.
Michael Cabang bore the barrage of UP’s offense, allowing six runs on six hits, but it was Apolinario who took the biggest blow that included the Ian Mercado homerun.