Manteca High’s reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion baseball team has reloaded with young talent, but these Buffaloes are learning fast.
Freshman pitcher Ryan Ward worked past a shaky start Tuesday against visiting Central Valley, and the Buffs had clutch hits up and down the lineup on their way to a 10-2 nonleague drubbing.
Ward, who improved to 3-0, was tagged for three hits and walked two in the first inning, as the Hawks (2-4-1) plated their only runs. Alex Solis and James Andres started with back-to-back singles. Gabriel Quezada knocked in Solis with a sacrifice fly to right, and Andres scored on a passed ball.
Ward was on cruise control the rest of the way, retiring the final 11 batters he faced. He struck out eight in five innings, and Jacob Moon gave up a hit in an otherwise two clean innings of work in relief.
“I settled down a little bit and started pounding the strike zone,” Ward said. “I knew that I was missing high, so I made a couple of adjustments, got in a groove and kept going.
“My defense is great. I’m not trying to strike guys out because they’ll make the plays behind me.”
The game ended with a little flair for the Buffaloes defense. Left fielder Gerson Gomez made a diving grab for the second out, and third-year junior infielder Kyle Rachels robbed Solis of a hit when he ranged to his right and picked the grounder behind the second-base bag before slinging it to first baseman Kenji Breitenbucher to end it.
It was overall a much-improved effort for Manteca (3-1), which was coming off a 10-0 loss at Los Banos.
“We’re a relatively inexperienced team, so anytime we can get into some situations where we’re down a little bit and have to battle back it’ll just be a learning experience for us,” Manteca coach Neil MacDannald said. “We start league a week early against Oakdale, so we don’t have a lot of time right the ship.”
Zach Chamberlain went 3 for 4 with a double to lead the offense. Pressley Keltner finished 2 for 3 and helped jump start the Buffaloes from the No. 9 spot in the order. He slugged a two-out double in the bottom of the second to give them the lead for good.
Manteca scored three more in the fourth, with Joel Olmos crushing a sun-aided triple for two RBIs. Alex Gouveia started Manteca’s two-out, three-run rally in the sixth with a single up the middle and was driven in by pinch-hitter Jose Rodriguez’s double down the third-base line. Breitenbucher capped it with an RBI single.
Moon contributed with a 2-for-4 effort, and the Buffaloes totaled 13 hits.
“Baseball’s a funny game,” MacDannald said. “You just feed off each other and when one guy’s getting hits it seems like the momentum builds. That has happened for us in two of our games, but we have to keep working so that it’s more consistent and not so hit and miss.”
Central Valley 0 (5)
Dominic Day (2 for 3, three runs), Dylan Gross and Austin Kovacs drove in two runs apiece. Logan Quan struck out five in the mercy-shortened two-hitter.
The Buffaloes are now 3-0.