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Rachels’ 2-run triple advances Buffs to semis

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Rachels’ 2-run triple advances Buffs to semis

Kyle Rachels connects for a two-run triple in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving Manteca a 6-5 lead over River Valley at Dan McAuliffe Memorial Ballparks on Thursday.


POSTED May 19, 2017 1:53 a.m.

SACRAMENTO — Manteca opened the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs with River Valley of Yuba City for a third straight year Thursday at Dan McAuliffe Memorial Ballparks.

And for the third straight year a single run separated the two.

The fourth-seeded Buffaloes jump started their championship defense with a hard-earned 6-5 come-from-behind victory highlighted by Kyle Rachels’ two-run triple in the bottom of the sixth.

Manteca (19-7) battled through early struggles. Freshman ace pitcher Ryan Ward walked seven batters in 4 1/3 innings, and his usually-sharp defense committed three errors behind him. No. 5 River Valley (15-13) took advantage and led 5-1 after two innings.

“Our coaches always preach for us to give full effort all the time,” Rachels said. “Baseball’s a crazy game, anything can happen. We may not have the best talent but we’ll play the hardest.”

Andrew Brunn, who relieved Ward on the mound in the fifth inning, walked to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Joel Olmos (2 for 3, two runs) later reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners. Rachels drove them both in with a towering shot that caromed off the left-field wall.

“(The count) was 2-0 so I was just looking for a pitch right down the middle,” Rachels said. “Coach gave me the greenlight. A lot of times he’ll give us the ‘take’ sign but he’s confident in me and I’m confident in myself. I was just looking for a good pitch to hit.”

It ended up being a great hit. He finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs. He earlier tied the game at 1-1 with a single that scored Olmos (leadoff double).

“The guy’s clutch in the playoffs,” Manteca coach Neil MacDannald said. “He was last year for us and he came through for us again tonight.”

Brunn locked down the win with a perfect seventh inning in which he induced two groundballs — including one to freshman call-up Logan Quan at third base — and a flyball. He faced nine batters in all, giving up only a double to Austin Engelhardt in the sixth.

Even though the Buffaloes had their share of early miscues, they had some highlight plays from Alex Gouveia at shortstop, Rachels at second and Gerson Gomez in left field. Gomez robbed Clayton Chipchase of a multi-bag hit in deep left-center field in the fifth inning. 

“It was obviously not Ryan’s best game but I’m proud of the way he kept composed and at least get semi deep into the game,” MacDannald said. “He was able to get us to Brunn, and we know Brunn is going to be solid and give us a chance to play catch.

“If you’re able to hit a bunch of gappers then hats off, but if you hit it at us I like our odds because our defense is phenomenal, in my opinion.”

Manteca closed the early gap with a three-run third inning. Gino Campiotti knocked in a pair with a single to left, and Isaac Maldonado followed with an RBI hit of his own. 

Jaden Diamond went 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs to lead the Falcons. 

Manteca’s win sets up a rematch of the 2016 Division III title game won by the Buffaloes, 9-6. It’s a best-of-three semifinal against top-seeded Christian Brothers (26-1), which knocked off Sierra 7-3 on Thursday. The series begins Saturday, 3 p.m. at McAuliffe Memorial Ballparks.

“There are several guys on that team that were in that game last year, so I expect them to want to avenge that,” MacDannald said. “More than that, they’re 26-1 and could have been the No. 1 seed in the Division I North bracket. 

“Obviously a super quality team and we’re going to have to play our ‘A’ game to get it done. We’re going to show up and fight like heck for as long as it takes and whatever happens in the end I’ll live with it.”

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