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Buffs hunt for second major title

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POSTED May 23, 2014 11:17 p.m.

There’s Joe Menzel, arms pointed to the sky, clutching the game ball.

There’s Dom Pisano, still fast as lightning, roaming the open spaces on the field.

Wait, aren’t those coaches Neil MacDannald, Jack Miller and Bobby Fryer – mainstays on the Manteca High football coaching staff?

If the Manteca High baseball team’s run to Monday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship feels like a throwback, guess what...

In many ways, it is.

Ten players on the baseball roster were a part of the football team’s history making postseason run. Anchored by Menzel and defenders Pisano and Chase McKee, the Buffaloes knocked championships down like dominos.

Manteca rolled to a Valley Oak League title, a Division III championship and the school’s first-ever CIF regional bowl game appearance.

The Buffaloes eventually lost a heartbreaker to Enterprise, 27-21, stopping a magical season many thought would end at Carson’s Home Depot Center.

MacDannald called the offensive plays for a team that accumulated 701 points, including 69 in a record-setting 69-55 win over Central Valley in the first round.

It would appear he’s got the Midas touch, guiding the Buffaloes’ baseball team to their first VOL title in 29 years in his first season back on the bench, but realistically it’s been about the players.

“This is a really athletic senior class at Manteca High. We’ve got a lot of guys that are determined and willing to work and do the things others aren’t,” MacDannald said.

“Personally, and for a couple of guys on the team and a couple of the coaches, it would be a thrill to have two section titles in one school year.”

A couple?

Ten members of the Manteca baseball team strapped on a helmet in the fall. Those who would qualify for The Double, should the baseball season end in a Manteca dog pile near the mound: outfielder Joe Menzel (QB); outfielder Dom Pisano (DB); infielder/catcher Chase McKee (linebacker); catcher Greg Jones (QB); outfielder Chris Iorio (WR/SS); outfielder AJ Kieffaber (TE/LB); outfielder Hector Soto (RB/LB); Sam Rohovit (OL/DL); infielder/pitcher Ronaldo Tijero (WR/DB); and utility/pitcher Jake Menasco (WR/DB).

“This group, from Day One, they wanted this as their legacy,” MacDannald said. “They were able to end an almost 30-year-old VOL drought and now this. This is the last thing on their check list.”



Just how important is Monday’s game?

MacDannald said Manteca’s 13 seniors have passed on the opportunity to attend Magic Mountain with their classmates, ensuring Vista del Lago gets their full attention.

“We have one game left and hopefully we’ve saved our best for that last game,” MacDannald said. “We’d like to send these seniors off with a really special treat.”



Speaking of experience, Vista del Lago also features 13 seniors, including Andrew Schantz, the Eagles’ hero in their semifinal win over Sierra. Schantz launched the game-winning home run over the left-field fence and tossed a three-hit shutout.



Don’t expect long, drawn-out at-bats by the Buffaloes on Monday.

MacDannald has seen enough of Vista’s Schantz to know the 6-foot ace won’t give them much to drive. “You may only get one pitch you like,” MacDannald said. “That’s the kind of stuff he has.”

If Manteca only gets one pitch, MacDannald said they’ll be ready to pounce. His team is hitting .351 in 27 games and has outscored their playoff opponents 20-2.

“Our approach is we’re going to wait for that pitch and square up and find some grass somewhere,” he added.

To contact Managing Editor James Burns, email jburns@mantecabulletin.com or call 209.249.3542.

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