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Manteca, Sierra among contenders for D-IV banner

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With arm raised, Manteca pitcher Lucas Vaughn completes his no-hit gem against Sierra this past Tuesday and begins to celebrate with teammates Jacob Corn, Buddy Reeder and Dillon Lauborough. The Va...

JONAMAR JACINTO/Bulletin file photo/

POSTED May 10, 2014 12:16 a.m.

With six of the nine qualifying teams tallying 20 or more wins in the regular season, there is no clear favorite in this year’s loaded Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV bracket.

Manteca (21-3) and Sierra (20-4) are among the contending clubs. The Valley Oak League’s top two teams open the postseason next week at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi, and both are paired with other 20-game winners.

The Buffaloes, who ended a 29-year title drought with Tuesday’s winner-take-all affair at Sierra, take on Sierra Valley Conference No. 3 seed El Dorado (21-6) at 7 o’clock Wednesday night. It’s the fourth year in the last five that the two teams will square off. The Cougars of Placerville won three of the four postseason showdowns, including a two-game sweep in the 2009 semifinal round.

On Thursday, Sierra faces a Ceres (23-5) team that split the Western Athletic Conference title with parochial power Central Catholic (21-5). Both Manteca and Sierra are gunning for their first section banners.

Oakdale (17-8) is the third qualifier out of the VOL. The Mustangs had their streak of VOL championships end at seven, but no one is counting them out of running for another section crown. They are the four-time defending champs and own six of the last eight banners in Division IV.

Oakdale hosts Los Banos (15-8) on Monday in the out-bracket game to kick off tournament action. The winner gets matched up with overall top seed Vista del Lago (23-4) on Thursday.

Central Catholic has a tough out in Cosumnes Oaks (19-7) in its opener. Cosmunes Oaks took two out of three in its Sierra Valley Conference series with league champ Vista del Lago.

First-round winners advance to the best-of-three semifinal round, which begins next Saturday, May 17. The championship game is scheduled for Monday, May 26 at 6 p.m.

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