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Area teams back in the mix after one-year absence

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POSTED May 19, 2010 2:20 a.m.
Four area teams are back in the postseason after a one-year absence.

Manteca High’s baseball team returns to the second season and opens the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs today in Sacramento, while Ripon Christian drew a 10-time defending section champion for its Division-V opener set for 7 in Lodi.

East Union and Sierra’s softball teams will also have their hands full when they kick off the SJS Division IV softball playoffs at Arnaiz Field today.

Sierra (17-9) takes on three-time reigning champion Bear River (20-4) at Arnaiz Field at 5 p.m. East Union (21-6) locks up with second-year school Cosumnes Oaks (20-5) at the same time, and all first-round winners play again at 7.

Bear River, led by sisters Stephanie and Courtney Ceo and returning sophomore pitcher Erin Nichol, came out of the consolation bracket to beat East Union twice in the title round back in 2007 and 08. Last year, the Bruins of Grass Valley made it three straight section titles with a win over Oakdale.

Pioneer Valley League rival and champion Lincoln, which is the only team in the bracket to go undefeated in conference play, may be the team to unseat Bear River.

Sierra does have a puncher’s chance with one of the tournament’s top pitchers in Gabby Hawkins, and the Timberwolves won seven of their last eight since the addition of sophomore-team call-ups Sommer Wilson, Shakira Lewis and Iyana Hughes.

On the other side of the bracket, East Union figures to have experience on its side against a team that has no seniors. East Union boasts an all-senior middle infield in Kourtni McCall and Cherie DeJesus with classmate Jackie Ketner in the pitcher’s circle.

Cosumnes Oaks, the Capital Valley Conference champion, can make a huge statement by beating an annual contender such as EU. Junior Madison Fish is the best of three pitchers and also leads the team with four home runs.

At Dan McAuliffe Memorial Park in Sacramento, Manteca (17-8-1) appears to be evenly matched with West Sacramento-based River City (19-7).

This intriguing matchup features two standout seniors in Manteca’s Matt Barber (10-0, 1.28 ERA; .382 average) and River City’s Kenny Crayne (8-1, 1.62 ERA, 76 strikeouts in 60.2 innings; .474 average).

At Zupo Field in Lodi, Ripon Christian (16-7) faces Central Catholic (19-2), and the Knights are looking for payback. In their last playoff appearance in 2008, RC lost to Central 8-5 in the first round.

Having beaten Trans Valley League outright champion Escalon twice in three contest during the regular season, RC has proven it can play with the best, and it has the pitching staff to make a deep run should the Knights get past CC.

The Raiders are led by three-year varsity star  junior Billy Flamion, who is hitting .507 with five home runs and 31 RBIs.

— Jonamar Jacinto
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