According to Google Maps, it takes two hours and 29 minutes to span the 143 miles separating Manteca and Dinuba, the site of the 2009 Babe Ruth Northern California State Tournament.
In the summer of 2007, Marshall Swift, Ricky Acosta, Jordan Louie and the rest of the Manteca Babe Ruth 14-15-year-old all-stars only had to travel to Tony Zupo Field in Lodi to capture Manteca Babe Ruth’s second ever state championship.
Friday in Dinuba, Brock Swift, Kevin Peck, Anthony Louie and crew will try to make it two out of three.
The all-stars were hard at work Tuesday at Agostini Field, fresh off a runner-up finish to San Benito in the District 1 Tournament.
Because District 1 is sending two teams to the state tournament this year, Manteca had already inked its name at state before reaching the title round, a rematch with the eventual champions after San Benito clipped Manteca, 3-2, in the opening round.
Manteca skipper Tom McGregor was pleased with his pitching and defense, but says Manteca’s situational hitting must come around if the all-stars want to move on to regionals.
Manteca resorted to small-ball and had to scrap its way through the district tournament, relying heavily on No.1 starter Kevin Peck.
“We struggled at the plate pretty much the whole tournament,” McGregor said. “We kept thinking the bats were going to come alive, and they really never did. But it shows a lot about a team when you can get the job done with one hit.”
Peck, a Manteca High junior, was asked to start on short notice when Manteca learned it needed just a semifinal win over Lodi to clinch a state berth.
The Buffalo, who sports a nasty 12-6 curve, was outstanding in a 10-0 mercy shortened win, tossing a complete game, three-hit shutout and fanning eight.
“We just have to come out swinging (at state). Look for strikes and make sure we hit them,” Peck said Tuesday. “We need to come together as a team.”
If Manteca knocks of Central of Tulare in the first round Friday at noon, a likely contest with San Benito awaits.
Both Peck and McGregor were impressed with the perennial power at the district tournament, lauding San Benito’s defense especially, but besides a fifth-inning implosion in the championship, Manteca played with San Benito in both contests.
Anthony Louie (.389 BA), normally an infielder, got the job done in centerfield, while Ronnie Limas (.500) has adapted well to a utility role and Zach O’Leary has been a rock behind the dish.
Just one potential base-stealer chose to test O’Leary in the district tournament, while Brett Riley raked at a .417 clip and Josh Bonds hit .357.
“By the fourth or fifth trip to Hollister, it takes a toll mentally,” McGregor said. “And we were in pressure-packed games the whole time. I would say we’re definitely battle-tested. We’re resilient for sure.
“We want to win this thing.”
McGregor is assisted by coaches Cabot Gause and Darren Swift.
Swift says the all-stars are accepting donations of any kind from the community to help offset the cost of the trip to Dinuba, which will include overnight stay.
Gift cards from Wal-Mart or Costco are especially useful.
If you would like to help out, contact Swift at 275-7505.