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Manteca relies on corner infielder’s bat, versatile glove

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Manteca relies on corner infielder’s bat, versatile glove

Alex Jorgensen is a fantasy baseball manager’s dream; an everyday talent that can impact the game three different ways – with his glove, his bat or his arm.

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo/

POSTED May 23, 2014 11:16 p.m.

Neil MacDannald isn’t ready to name a starter for Monday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship.

The Manteca High skipper is torn between two aces: Oregon bound Jake Corn, one of the top left-handed prospects in the Sac-Joaquin Section; and Lucas Vaughn, a senior that twirled a no-hitter against Sierra to secure the Valley Oak League championship.

While MacDannald plays it close to the chest, another Buffalo stands just behind the mound lost in limbo, waiting for his orders.

Meet Alex Jorgensen, the third player in the Corn vs. Vaughn debate. The senior has been a Swiss Army knife, playing as many as five different positions for a Buffalo bunch that snapped a 29-year-old title drought and clinched the program’s first-ever section finals berth.

Manteca (24-3) tangles with Vista del Lago (26-5) Monday at Tony Zupo Field in a winner-take-all battle for the coveted blue banner. First pitch is set for 6 o’clock, and which side of the diamond Jorgensen defends depends on who gets the ball.

The senior is a fantasy baseball manager’s dream; an everyday talent that can impact the game three different ways – with his glove, his bat or his arm.

When Corn starts, Jorgensen grabs the thick padded mitt and heads to first base. When Vaughn is on the bump, Jorgensen slides over to third. In 69 total chances, he’s committed just four errors, including one in the last 15 games.

“He’s played shortstop in a league game for us. We’ve stuck him in left field. He’s even pitched the ending of quite a few games,” MacDannald said. “He’s a guy willing to do whatever we ask him to do. He’s an athlete and a competitor.”

On any other team, Jorgensen might command more attention. The truth is, like so many of his teammates, Jorgensen has sacrificed personal gain for a chance at a Sac-Joaquin Section championship.

“Every competitor wants to be the man and to be the star,” MacDannald said. “But we have a bunch of guys that are willing to sacrifice for the guy to the left and right of them.

“Growing up, he’s been one of the studs. I coached him as a sophomore. If he wasn’t the best on that team, he was right there.”

After scuffling early in the season, Jorgensen has raised his average to .324 with 22 hits, 17 runs and 15 RBI. He’s tops on the club in stolen bases, too, with 12.

Jorgensen has been particularly good in the playoffs, where he’s hitting .750 with four runs and two RBI.

He went 2 for 3 in Manteca’s opening round victory over El Dorado, smashing a double off the wall at Tony Zupo Field.

In a series sweep of Cosumnes Oaks, Jorgensen went 4 for 5 in two games.

“As good a hitter as Jorgensen has been his whole high school career, he stuttered a little bit through the season,” MacDannald said. “Down the stretch here in the playoffs, he’s been squaring balls up well and hitting like we expected him to hit all year.

“Whatever he saved up, I’m glad it has come out late.”

Manteca will need his production and so much more against Vista del Lago ace Andrew Schantz (9-0, 2.30 ERA), who shutout Sierra in the semifinal clincher.

While names like Corn, Vaughn, Reeder and Pisano garner most of the attention, MacDannald says Manteca’s fate rests with its worker bees – players like leadoff hitter and shortstop Michael Garibay, his double-play partner Ezequiel Diaz, quarterback-turned-RBI machine Joe Menzel and, of course, Jorgensen.

“In this game you can’t have any holes anywhere or the baseball will find them,” MacDannald said. “We like our team and we like the depth of our team. We do have some big-name guys that jump out at you, but we wouldn’t be anywhere without those guys.

“You got to love that about these 17- and 18-year-olds. In this day and age, it’s tough to find kids like that. Luckily, we have quite a few on our team.”

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