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What a relief: Gallagher puts away Cougars

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What a relief: Gallagher puts away Cougars

Sierra’s Jake Pruitt hustles around the bag at third base and scores during a 6-2 VOL victory over Weston Ranch on Thursday afternoon.

JOHN-JOEL GRIFFITHS/The Bulletin/


POSTED April 24, 2014 11:59 p.m.

Jack Thomson believes he’s found another arm to bolster Sierra’s run at a Valley Oak League championship.

He just hopes the rest of his club hasn’t lost the spark.

The Timberwolves completed their series sweep of Weston Ranch on Thursday afternoon with a 6-2 victory to remain one game back of Manteca in the loss column with two weeks left in the regular season.

Kyle Oden doubled twice and drove in one and Dakota Conners went 2-for-2 with a double and two RBIs for the Timberwolves, who struggled to put away a one-win team.

Two days after a 16-1 beating, Weston Ranch kept Sierra on edge and chased starter Blake Sunderquist with a two-run rally in the fourth.

Sierra (8-1, 16-3) didn’t do itself any favors, either. The Timberwolves left 10 on base and went 3 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

“One team came ready to play and one team didn’t,” Thomson said. “We had a bad approach at the plate and we need to understand that every game counts the same. This is the first time I’ve been disappointed in our effort.

“You have to show up and you have to play the game. We showed up, but we didn’t play the game. We didn’t respect them because of the way the game went on Tuesday and it turned out to be a struggle for us.”

Weston Ranch (1-9, 3-18) knotted the game at 2-2 in the top of the fourth on RBIs by Juan Ramos and CJ Drain, putting the Timberwolves on upset alert.

“You could see the emotion rise in the kids. You could see them thinking, ‘Hey, we could do this,’” Weston Ranch coach David Hager said. “We’re a young team and we’re not as aggressive as we could be, but we’re getting there. That inning was a spark for us.”

The Cougars are in the throes of a rebuilding effort under coach Hager,  and Drain – a boyish 14-year-old in baggy baseball pants – is the centerpiece.

The freshman kept one of the area’s more formidable lineups off-balanced with his softer velocity and breaking ball.

Drain went five innings, giving up three runs on nine hits. He walked four but struck out Jake Souza and cleanup hitter Jake Pruitt to escape a bases-loaded jam in the fourth.

Though he was knocked around – Sierra banged out six doubles – Drain minimized the damage by allowing his defense to play behind him.

Sophomore shortstop Josh Dilg turned a first-inning double play and first baseman Manuel Rubio nailed a runner at home in the second.

“I thought he threw his guts out,” Hager said. “He threw everything he could and he saw a really good lineup. He made the pitches he had to make to get outs.”

Sierra pulled away in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk by Conners. Two innings later, Conners provided the insurance, smoking a double into the left-field corner.

Souza, who reached on an error, scored to make it 4-2. Conners and Pruitt (walk) would eventually score on passed balls.

One of the few bright spots for Thomson was the continued development of left-hander Jakob Gallagher, a 6-foot-3 junior. Gallagher pitched three innings in relief, doubling the number of innings he had pitched all season.

His season started slowly. Gallagher was a member of the Sierra boys basketball team, which won the VOL and earned a playoff home game.

“I don’t think he was throwing any during basketball,” Thomson said.

On Thursday, he was dialed in. Gallagher struck out seven of the nine batters he faced and didn’t allow a single baserunner.

Thomson said Gallagher could be used as a third starter behind Oden (6-1, 1.31 ERA) and Leo Soto (7-1, 1.03 ERA), giving Sierra a formidable and deep staff come playoff time.

“It gives us another option,” Thomson said. “Gallagher came in and did a great job of throwing strikes. I think he’s solidified himself as being a guy behind Soto and Oden who will get innings.”

Thomson just hopes Thursday’s funk doesn’t haunt the Timberwolves down the stretch. Sierra is scheduled to play a make-up game at Sonora (4-4) today and then has a home-and-home series with Lathrop (2-7) next week.

If Sierra can navigate that stretch unscathed it will set up a winner-take-all showdown with the Buffaloes in the final week.

“We have a tendency to play down to the level of our opponent. This wasn’t the effort we had against Oakdale (last week),” Thomson said.

Manteca 7, East Union 2

East Union (3-7, 4-16) put the Valley Oak League leader in an early hole, 2-0, but Manteca (10-0, 18-2) surged to its 11th consecutive win with six runs over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Senior Joe Menzel had the tide-turning hit, an RBI double in the fourth. He went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, giving him five for the series.

Lathrop 15, Sonora 15 (9)

One long night in Sonora turned into an even longer night in Lathrop. The game between the Spartans and Wildcats was called in the ninth inning with the score knotted at 15s because of nightfall. Keenan Donatelli-Bryant and Richia Juarez had three hits apiece for Lathrop, while Charles Garcia had two.

Ripon 6, Modesto 3

Nick Price snapped out of a funk with a perfect day at the dish. The sophomore went 3-for-3 with a three-run home run that bounced off a home behind the left-field fence. Caleb Rogers (solo) and Michael Ysit (two RBIs) also homered for the Indians, which finished 3-1 at the Dick Windemuth Tournament.

Ripon Chr. 4,
Woodland Chr. 3 (8)

David Henderson scored the game-winning run in the eighth inning on an errant throw at third base to help RC salvage a split with Woodland Christian. Henderson went 2-for-4. Travis Vander Molen struck out nine in six innings, but didn’t factor in the win.

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