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Babe Ruth champs make high school curtain call this week

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POSTED May 3, 2009 1:08 a.m.
It was July 26, 2007.

Tony Zupo Field in Lodi was bathing in a scorching mid-afternoon sun and the Manteca Babe Ruth 13-15-year old all stars were taking the field.

Marshall Swift trotted to the mound to warm up with battery mate Jordan Louie.

Kevin Allen fielded a grounder at third from first baseman Ryan Sage, then shortstop Ricky Acosta and second baseman Ryan Knisely followed suit.

In the outfield, centerfielder Jonathan Davis played catch with Dakota Anderson in right.

A few hours later, Manteca claimed an 8-4 win over Arroyo Grande to claim the Central California State Babe Ruth championship and move on to the Pacific Southwest Regional.

Swift was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after hitting .400 and collecting two wins on the bump with a 2.15 ERA.

Knisely and Allen were both named to the All Tournament team, and the title win itself was sparked by Davis, who moved to the bottom of Manteca’s order and ignited two separate rallies.

“It’s like having a second leadoff hitter,” Davis said. “Once I get on base, I know the top of the lineup is going to drive me home.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Last Thursday, Sierra head coach Jack Thomson moved Davis, now a junior, to the eight-hole in the Timberwolves’ lineup.

Davis went 2 for 3 and was the primary facilitator of two run-scoring innings in a must-win victory over Central Valley.

This week, Davis,  Louie and the rest of the playoff-hopeful Timberwolves will meet Swift, Sage and an angry group of Lancers who feel – rightfully so – that it could just as easily be them playing for the postseason.

Across town, Allen, Knisely and Acosta will say goodbye to the high school diamond after concluding a home-and-home with Weston Ranch.

Louie’s eyes lit up Thursday when I talked to him about meeting East Union with a chance to slip past Sonora and claim the VOL’s second and final postseason berth.

He mentioned the heated rivalry, which reached an explosive peak last season when EU claimed two thrilling come-from-behind wins to unseat the Timberwolves and propel themselves toward a Sac-Joaquin Section title game appearance.

The wry smile beneath Louie’s words didn’t show itself, however, until he mentioned how important the rivalry was to the senior class.

When Louie steps into the box to face Swift this week, a one-on-one battle for personal bragging rights between old friends will unfold.

No matter who comes out on top, however, it’s clear that all of the Babe Ruth all stars have made a name for themselves at the next level.

Allen, Acosta and Knisely are the unquestioned leaders at Manteca High.

At Sierra, Davis still has one more year to go, but Louie has proven to be one of the most talented backstops ever to dawn the silver and blue.

“Swifty,” as I refer to him, will be long remembered in the well-traveled hallways of the Bulletin, where the pitcher is revered for his countless clutch efforts and his filthy hook.

Anderson, who played in a reserve role for the Lancers this season, is a beast on the gridiron, and Sage, who returned for his senior season after a knee injury, offered an impressive stick and proved he didn’t lose a step.

Whenever the season ends, be it next week or beyond, save for Davis, all of the Babe Ruth all stars will be moving on.

It’s the yearly drag of covering high school sports, the kids you’ve watched, talked to, and pulled for the longest all hit the road in search of greener pastures.

Fortunately for those of us who stick around, for every Jordan Louie, Marshall Swift and Ricky Acosta that takes his final bow, there’s a Jordan Kron, Dakota Conners and Jake Pruitt hungry to step up to the plate.
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