Now that La Salle is UAAP baseball champion again, the savants are trying to decide who the most valuable Archer is in the Taft Avenue clouters’ fifth title conquest.
It is not that easy, however.
The most artful Archer of them all never hit a homer with the bases full, stole home in a championship game, struck out the side with the tying run on third or got a batter to pop up with the game or the pennant on the line.
The one who comes close to this is Archers’ head coach Joseph Orillana, who, in his first time on the bench, guided La Salle to its fourth plum in 2016 — the same number fashioned out by Ateneo and University of the East.
He carried the responsibility of charting the course of training program and how it was carried out, laying out tactics and strategies and other aspects of preparations.
Most importantly, he was willing to gamble to succeed in his goal.
Three years before that, Orillana pitched for his school’s 2003 diadem, his second actually, counting the 2000 season title conquest.
Players’ graduation emasculated the 38-year-old’s 2017 roster when the Archers settled for third. They improved to a silver medal finish last year behind eventual winner, the Adamson Falcons.
That runner-up squad was kept almost intact for this year’s UAAP baseball war, but Orilana, nonetheless, took new faces Marthy Ranada and Joshua Pineda to reinforce old guards Paulo Salud, Diego Lozano, Boo Barandian, Ignacio Escano, Kiko Gesmundo, Bill Evangelista, Tui Park, Antonnrossa, Anton Tantuico and Luis Miniana.
Also retaining their slots in the team are Arvin Herrera, Joaquin Bilbao, Anton Acuña, Rafael Pascual, James Eparas, Paolo Casas, Adolfo Bilbao and Gabriel Pineda.
“Preparation for this year’ campaign wasn’t really that hard,” Orillana bared when asked what his secrets in winning. ”Kasi intact naman ang last year’s runner-up team. I know the boys na by heart. They know me, too, at sila naman magkakakilala na. So, naging madali ang implementation ng preparedness program.”
“During actual competition na, we made it a point to meet after every game at the dorm where we evaluated ano nangyari in a particular game. The we made adjustments kung ano naging kulang o sobra,” he shared.
Orillana even confessed that every so often he had to gamble like shuffling his infield rotations to serve the team’s purpose. “‘Yung first baseman ko ililipat ko sa third, ‘yung second sa third and so on depending in the situations. And more often, nagki-click naman. That’s why La Salle players can play multi-positions.
“Si Kiko (Gesmundo) for instance, is a powerful hitter and good pitcher. Pero minsan ko lang siya nilagay sa mound noong eliminaton. Lagi siya sa short kasi doon kami mahina,” Orillana said.
“Everybody was wondering, including himself, bakit di ko siya pinagpi-pitch. But in Game 3 of the bet-of-three against Ateneo for the gold medal, I started him kasi sa tagal niyang hindi nagpi-pitch, the enemies might have forgotten him as a pitcher,” he explained.
“All I needed from him was to hold our rival’s batter for a few innings. He outdid himself doing what we wanted not only for a few, but for an extended seven innings,” Orillana recalled. “That accomplished, I had to pull him out because we already needed him for offensive purposes.”
And as the old saying goes, the rest was history, with the second generation scion of a great baseball playing family delivering the goods by hammering out a two-run homerun at the bottom of the ninth and last frame that gave the Archers a 9-7 triumph and the 2019 gonfalon.
By Eddie Alinea