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Manteca minor all-star pitchers handcuff WR
Manteca Little League pitching ace Ryan Ward was perfect in his three-inning start in District 67 All-Star Tournament action Friday in Tracy. Ward was a part of a combined two-hitter in a tidy 8-0 victory. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

TRACY — Pitching depth is imperative in double-elimination tournaments.

After dispatching Weston Ranch 8-0 in the Little League District 67 All-Star Tournament Friday at Jefferson School, Manteca’s minor-division squad is set up nicely for the winner’s-bracket semifinal.

Manteca had three pitchers combine for a two-hitter, and they flirted with a perfect game until it was broken up by an infield throwing error with two outs in the fifth inning. Dakota Lewis and Anthony Fulk belted back-to-back singles with two outs in the sixth for Weston Ranch’s only knocks.

While perfect games and no-no’s are nice, championships are even better. And by having all of its pitching available for its semifinal showdown with Tracy American Sunday, Manteca might well be on its way.

Ryan Ward, Zach Chamberlain and Jacob Moon each threw less than 35 pitches, allowing any of them to take the mound again on one day’s rest.

Ward got the start and struck out four in three economical innings. He got five groundball outs in the first two innings before striking out the side in the third.

Zach Chamberlain relieved Ward at the start of the fourth and got big help from second baseman Bobby McConologue, who executed two routine 4-3 groundouts before robbing Carlos Souza of a line-drive hit to end the inning.

Chamberlain went 2 2/3 innings and had four strikeouts. After throwing 33 pitches, he was replaced by Jacob Moon in the sixth.

Manteca’s offense supplied its pitching triumvirate with more than enough support.

It started at the top with leadoff hitter Alex Gouveia, who was 3 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs. His well-hit shot to center field in the fourth was dropped, and with his speed Gouveia turned it into a two-base error.

Isaac Maldonado finished 2 for 2 with an RBI double and two runs scored. Ward helped his own cause with a run-scoring single in the first, when he was spotted a 2-0 lead. Manteca would plate two more in the second, one in the fourth and three in the fifth.

Manteca and Tracy American will duke it out for a spot in the championship round Sunday starting at noon. Weston Ranch encounters Lathrop Sunday morning at 9.