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Timmins’ catch seals win; one more clinches berth

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Manteca catcher Matt Burrows blocks the plate before getting the tag on Oakdale's Cole Branch in the fifth inning.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED May 7, 2010 3:00 a.m.

Playing catch isn’t always as easy as it looks.

But Manteca High center fielder Michael Timmins made it look easy when making the game-clinching play in the Buffaloes’ 4-3 victory over visiting Oakdale.

Oakdale’s top hitter, Brennon Williams, stepped into the batter’s box in the top of the final frame representing the go-ahead run.

He turned a 1-1 offering from Manteca starter Matt Barber into a towering shot to right-center field, but his would-be heroic swing was negated by Timmins’ heroic catch.

Timmins ran the ball down, caught it in stride with an over-the-shoulder grab and nearly collided with the fence at full speed near the 382-foot marker for the dramatic final out.

“Barber was throwing a great game and I was not going to let him lose,” said Timmins who was also 2 for 2 with two runs. “I had to help him out. For a second I thought it was a shot, but halfway through I knew I was going to get it.”

The Willie Mays act saved the day and kept the Buffaloes (10-4 Valley Oak League, 15-8-1 overall) a game ahead of Ceres for one of the three Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff berths.

The win was also their first over Oakdale in a while, and the Mustangs (12-2, 18-7) will have to wait until next week’s series with rival Sonora to clinch its fourth straight VOL championship. Sonora (11-3) can take the outright title with a sweep, but an Oakdale sweep would give Manteca an opportunity to take second place and a more favorable postseason seed.

Manteca can clinch a playoff spot next week by splitting two games with Weston Ranch (3-11).

“That’s no guarantee,” Manteca coach Gene Ballardo said. “I don’t take any team lightly. Weston Ranch beat us last year.”

And Ballardo wasn’t exactly comfortable with the 4-1 lead in the last inning, even with his pitcher dealing against the league’s No. 1 club.

Barber managed to work through five errors and had a one-hitter along with a 4-1 lead going into the seventh.

Oakdale’s Joey Machado beat out the throw from third baseman Daniel Miramontes, who did well to keep the ball in the infield with a nice diving grab, for his team’s second hit of the game. No. 9 batter Braydon Stephens then turned the lineup over with a single to put two runners on with one out.

Kody Simmons gave Manteca reason to sweat after belting a two-run single to left, setting the table for Williams.

“It’s not just Oakdale, it’s anybody in general,” Ballardo said. “I don’t care if it’s Oakdale, I don’t ever feel safe because anything can happen and I’ve seen it happen many times.”

Barber’s complete-game effort ended with three strikeouts, four hits, four walks and two earned runs.

“Barber pitched his game like he normally does — he stays low in the strike zone, gets ground balls and makes the perfect pitches with the game on the line,” his batterymate Matt Burrows said.

Burrows keyed the victory with a go-ahead, two-run single up the middle in the fourth. In the sixth, Daniel Miramontes (2 for 3, run) hammered an RBI double, and Burrows (2 for 3, three RBIs) drove him in with his own double for what ended up being a much-needed insurance run.

Oakdale starting pitcher Tanner Combs had a no-hitter brewing through three innings before scattering three straight knocks to start the fourth.

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