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Upset-minded Manteca seeks first finals berth

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POSTED May 22, 2010 2:24 a.m.
In 2007, Manteca High’s baseball team qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time since the late 1980s.

On Wednesday, the Buffaloes (18-8-1) ended another drought by making it past the first round for the first time in over 20 years with a 5-0 win over River City of West Sacramento.

Going any further will be no easy task.

El Dorado (25-2) of Placerville, the Pioneer Valley League champion and Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff runner-up a year ago, can relate to Manteca’s recent rise to contendership.

Before dropping a 6-1 decision to PVL rival Placer in last season’s championship round, the Cougars ended a 19-year playoff drought and won their first postseason contest in close to three decades. Their berth to the finals was their first in program history.

 Manteca has never made the title round, and to do so it must take two out of three from El Dorado starting with today’s second-round opener at Dan McAuliffe Memorial Park in Sacramento.

El Dorado is coached by Rusty McDonald, who was selected eighth overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1978 amateur baseball draft, and he has loads of talent at his disposal.

Senior Kyle Buchanan, voted the PVL’s 2009 Most Valuable Player, is one of the top sluggers in the section. His 10 home runs are second most in the section, and his 48 RBIs ranks him third. He has also plated 37 runs while holding a .438 batting average.

Buchanan is protected by a deep lineup that has slugged a total of 27 jacks and a .364 team average. Sophomore outfielder Justin Dhillon (.430, four HRs, 33 RBIs), Joey Smith (.362, four HRs, 18 RBIs) and Nick Weber (.400, five HRs, 21 RBIs) can also rake.

The pitching staff boasts a team ERA of 1.78 and is led by senior Chris Rickon, who is 9-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 67 innings. Roger Gadow, who is also one of the team’s top hitters (.446), checks in at 7-1 with a 1.53 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings.

El Dorado’s only losses came against other Division-IV playoff qualifiers — Rio Linda in a 1-0 nonleague defeat, and Bear River, 3-2, during the regular season. Rio Linda faces four-time Valley Oak League champion Oakdale in the other semifinal series.

Manteca comes in as the underdog but does have quality wins under its belt, including a season sweep of Sonora and a split with Oakdale in VOL action. El Dorado opened the postseason with a 6-2 win over Sonora.

Matt Burrows (.507, 27 RBIs; 5-6, 2.56 ERA, 68 K’s in 63 IP) is Manteca’s likely starting pitcher today. Senior Matt Barber improved to 11-0 on the season with Wednesday’s shutout and is tied for the section lead in wins.

— Jonamar Jacinto
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