KIKO Gesmundo blasted a two-run homer in the ninth inning as La Salle nipped Ateneo, 11-9, in a thrilling ending to annex the UAAP baseball crown yesterday.
The Green Batters then preserved Gesmundo’s heroics with a double play at the bottom ninth that doused any hopes for the Blue Eagles to send the game to extra innings, sending the green-clad gallery to delirium at the historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.
“Nasa kanila na. Magde-determine ang larong ito sa mas gustong manalo. At pinatunayan nila iyon. Ang sabi ko, anytime, kaya nila iyon,” said Joseph Orillana, a former La Salle ace pitcher won won his second championship as a coach.
The Green Batters also claimed their fifth crown overall and second in the last four seasons.
The title served as a fitting sendoff for Finals MVP Gesmundo, Best Hitter Boo Barandiaran, Paulo Salud, Tuwi Park, Joaqui Bilbao, and Gabo Pineda, who all ended their career as winners.
Aside from being the season MVP, La Salle’s Diego Lozano was named the Best Slugger with .842 and snagged the Most Homeruns plum with three, while his teammate Iggy Escaño won the Most RBIs award with 18 this season.
Ateneo rallied from a 5-9 deficit for four runs in the bottom eight, as Dino Altomonte’s pop-fly sent Javi Macasaet home to level, paving the way for an exciting finish.
Gesmundo had two RBIs and two runs, while Anton Acuña also had two RBIs for the Green Batters.
Arvin Herrera, the Green Batters’ closer, delivered a strike out on the Blue Eagles’ Gio Salvatierra in the bottom ninth before clinching the game with a double play.
Marco Mallari had three RBIs and two hits, Javi Macasaet came through with two RBIs and two hits, while Paolo Macasaet pitched for 6 1/3 innings and tallied five strikeouts for Ateneo.
La Salle won the series opener, 9-7, before dropping Game 2, 3-7, paving the way for the first-ever championship decider between the two fierce rivals.