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SO, WE MEET AGAIN

Manteca looks to avenge 2012 first-round loss to El Dorado

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SO, WE MEET AGAIN

Manteca High’s Buddy Reeder connects for an RBI hit against Sierra in Tuesday’s regular-season finale.

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POSTED May 11, 2013 2:04 a.m.

Manteca and Ripon Christian begin the Sac-Joaquin Section Division playoffs against familiar foes next week.

Sierra, meanwhile, is paired with a powerhouse club that the Timberwolves and the rest of the Valley Oak League will soon get more acquainted with.

The three area teams still standing will play their final games of the season at Lodi’s Tony Zupo Field, host of the SJS Division IV and VI playoffs.

Manteca (16-7) faces off with El Dorado (18-8) of Placerville next Wednesday starting at 4 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s epic first-round clash of aces. Only one half of that pitcher’s duel returns, however.

Justin Dillon, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound workhorse who racked up 16 strikeouts in nine innings, is now at Sacramento State. Jacob Corn, then a sophomore, fanned 18 in his nine innings of work. El Dorado secured a 2-1 win in the bottom of the 10th when Zack Culp was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. El Dorado dropped two of three to Sonora in the semifinal series.

Culp (.353 batting average) and Matt Smith were both freshmen last year and return as two of the top players for El Dorado. Smith leads the Cougars in batting average (.506), hits (43), runs (30) and extra-base hits (13).

Fourth-year catcher Chris Swineford (.382, 3 HRs, 27 RBIs) is one of just three seniors on a squad that has six underclassmen. Sophomore Nicholas Bonniksen is 7-3 with a 2.35 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings as the team’s ace.

Catcher Buddy Reeder (.463, 15 RBIs), center fielder Dominick Pisano (.400, 18 runs), second baseman Ezequiel Diaz (.290, 20 runs) and Corn (.309, 17 RBIs; 9-1, 1.27) all played in last year’s playoff opener, and none are seniors. Hilmar transfer Lucas Vaughn (.373; 2.00) and Jeremy Vaughn (1.80) solidify Manteca’s pitching staff.

Speaking of familiar foes, Manteca could very well see another in the next round if both the Buffaloes and Sierra win Wednesday. The city rivals split their regular-season series last week, with each win clinching a playoff berth. The Timberwolves are making their first postseason appearance in eight years.

Sierra (16-9-1) has no easy task ahead with tradition-rich Central Catholic (21-5) standing in the way.

The Raiders of Modesto own the most SJS titles with 11, including 10 in a row (2000-09). But they haven’t played in a championship game since losing 15-4 to Escalon in the 2010 Division V finale and have since moved up to the more competitive Division V.

The Western Athletic Conference titlists are essentially the No. 2 seed in the nine-team bracket but could be viewed as the favorite with notable nonleague wins over Central Coast Section juggernauts St. Francis (20-7) and Palma (20-6). Valley Oak League champ Oakdale headlines the other end of the bracket and has captured five of the last six Division IV crowns.

Central Catholic has no shortage of pitching with Matt Palazzo leading the way. He is 5-1 with a 1.74 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. John Mundt (7-2, 2.40), Matt Clark (2-1, 1.60) and sophomore Chandler Bengston (5-1, 5.02) have each logged at least 30 innings. Bengston (.361, 30 RBIs) and Clark (.357, 21 runs) are also two of the club’s offensive players along with Aiden Westrope (.365). CC joins the VOL in 2014-15.

Battle-tested Sierra has done it with defense and production up and down the lineup. Marc Wilson (5-2, 2.90) heads a reliable pitching staff that has no star, but it has gotten a boost with the recent return of Tyler Moss from injury.

In Division VI, Ripon Christian (16-8-1) had won 14 of 15 games before dropping its final two to Mariposa, which earned the outright Southern League title as a result of the sweep. Mariposa seeks a second straight section title, which would be its fourth in six years.

The Knights take on Forest Lake Christian (11-5) of Auburn Tuesday at 4. Ripon Christian edged the Falcons 2-1in the first round last season before losing two of three to Bradshaw Christian, the likely semifinal opponent for the winner.

Forest Lake is coming off a 13-1 loss to Central Valley California Conference champion Woodland Christian.

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