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Sophomores Diaz, Rea help Buffaloes salvage series split

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In just his third varsity start, Manteca pitcher Rafael Diaz held Oakdale to three hits and three runs in six innings as the Buffaloes won, 10-5

POSTED April 13, 2018 2:10 a.m.

On the heels of back-to-back losses, Manteca turned to a pair of sophomores to help get itself back on track.

In just his third varsity start Thursday, pitcher Rafael Diaz worked through some early struggles before settling into a groove, and Dominic Rea went 2 for 3 with three runs while batting from the top of the order for the first time as the Buffaloes trounced Oakdale 10-5 to force a series split.

“They don’t have a ton of baseball experience and they’re clearly young, but the good news is they’re the type of kids who come to work every day and are willing to get better,” Manteca coach Neil MacDannald said.

Manteca (4-2 Valley Oak League, 11-5-1 overall) had a 10-game winning streak halted by rival East Union, 4-1, last Thursday, April 5. The offensive woes continued Tuesday when Oakdale limited the Buffs to two hits in a 4-1 victory.

One of those hits was a solo homer by Rea. He continued his recent surge Thursday by plating a run in each of the first three innings and set the tone on his first at-bat by drawing a full-count walk.

“The maturation of Dom Rea since Day 1 has been great,” MacDannald said. “He’s been our No. 9 hitter and we decided it was time to shake it up, so we put him at leadoff and he did a great job in that role.”

Manteca wound up scoring four runs in the bottom of the first and didn’t trail from there. Marcus Juarez faced six batters and recorded an out before he was replaced by Shawn Merriam, who pitched the rest of the game for the Mustangs (4-2, 9-8).

Manteca racked up 10 of its 11 hits in the first three innings and built a 10-3 lead in the process. Alex Gouveia (2 for 4, two runs, two RBIs) and Kyle Rachels (2 for 2, walk, sacrifice fly, two runs, two RBIs) each blasted two doubles. Ferrin Manuleleua was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and scored on a delayed steal in the opening frame. Kenji Breitenbucher punctuated the barrage with a RBI bloop single that dropped in shallow left field behind the third-base bag.

“I think the main thing was energy for us,” Rachels said. “We wanted to start something early and get on them. We got their first guy out and were loud in the dugout. Our big thing was to be aggressive, look for good pitches to hit and we banged today.”

On the mound, Diaz started strong by striking out the side in the first inning before running into some trouble. He was twice called for balks, and after hitting Jacob Solorio with a pitch to start the second the Mustangs rallied for their first three runs on RBIs from the bottom third of the lineup. Hayden Knittle drove in Solorio with a grounder up the middle, and Austin Meeks and Jake Elting followed with run-scoring groundouts.

Diaz hit another batter in the third and walked two in the fourth but retired the final seven batters he faced. He finished with four strikeouts and allowed three hits over six innings.

Diaz debuted on the varsity squad two weeks ago in the College Baseball Match Classic in Folsom.

“I just took some team breaths, took my time and walked it off,” Diaz said. “Just tried to regroup after every pitch and do my best.”

Rachels pitched the seventh inning and allowed Oakdale’s first four batters to reach, starting with Meeks’ double to deep left. Alex Daoud knocked him in with a single to left, and Max Moore drove in the final run of the game with a sacrifice fly that killed the Mustangs’ comeback attempt — Dylan Wright was tagged for the second out on the play as he looked to advance to second.



Manteca 3, Oakdale 1

Cristian Tonna smacked a two-run, go-ahead single in the sixth inning for Manteca (13-2-1). Isaac Searcy drove in the Buffaloes’ first run in the opening inning and finished 2 for 3.

Winning pitcher Austin Kovacs threw two hitless innings in relief. Starter Isaiah Perez struck out three in the combined three-hitter. 

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