Alex Gouveia’s fourth and final season at Manteca High didn’t end up matching his ambitions.
The slick-fielding shortstop who makes tough plays look routine strived for a perfect fielding percentage but came up short. Offensively, he made slight improvements across the board but expected more.
Gouveia also hoped the 2019 team could replicate the same level of success as the 2016ers who made the most of their talents. That didn’t happen either.
He and the Buffaloes settled on a very good season in a region stacked with highly-competitive ballclubs and ballplayers. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound Gouveia managed to stand out in his senior campaign and is the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Baseball MVP.
Much of Gouveia’s career numbers rank among the best in program history. Most notable are his 114 games played, No. 1 in the school record books, and he played every inning at shortstop. He’s a two-time All-Valley Oak League first-team infielder and was voted All-VOL Offensive Player of the Year this past season.
“I don’t think I necessarily reached my peak but I did feel like I progressed and got better,” Gouveia said. “Team-wise, we lacked a lot offensively throughout the season and I tried to be that guy for our team.
“Considering how many juniors we had, I’d say it was a major accomplishment for our team to make the playoffs. Nothing was guaranteed and there were no pushovers in league compared to other years.”
The Buffaloes (6-6 VOL, 16-11 overall) narrowly qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs but were a few plays away from placing as high as second in league behind rival Sierra.
Gouveia made it out of the opening round of the postseason every year at Manteca. He was the starting shortstop as a freshman on the 2016 VOL and SJS Division III championship team, calling it an “exhilarating experience and one of the best moments in my life.”
He was productive in his final outings. In his last home game, and playoff opener, Gouveia went 3 for 4, as the Buffs ousted reigning section champion Beyer, 4-1.
Manteca then ran into No. 3-seeded Atwater and lost 2-1 on a walk-off double. Gouveia doubled and scored his team’s lone run, finishing 2 for 4. The Buffaloes left 10 runners on base.
“It was tough, honestly,” Gouveia said. “I did all I could to help give us the best chance of winning and it wasn’t enough. High school ball was such a great experience for me with the camaraderie I had with the coaches and teammates, that’s what made it tough. It was a little emotional.”
For the season, Gouveia notched a career-best .438 batting average with 42 hits, 26 runs, 24 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 11 doubles, two triples and a homer. That home run is his only one for his career at Manteca, and he got it in the final week of league at Central Catholic.
“I’ve never been a home run hitter,” Gouveia said. “They wanted me to bat in the 3 or 4 hole at the start of the season, but I like to set the tone at leadoff.”
Gouveia was never one to shy away from big moments, as proven during his two postseason games. He produced against top teams and pitchers all season, including a 3-for-4 effort against eventual SJS Division IV champion and Cal-Hi Sports Division III Team of the Year Los Banos. He also went 5 for 7 in two non-league contests against 24-4 Bear Creek, the San Joaquin Athletic Association champion.
In Manteca’s VOL opener, Gouveia went 4 for 5 with five RBIs against dangerous Weston Ranch, and he got four hits against Kimball and pitching ace Gabe Cortinas in a game with postseason implications for both teams.
As good as Gouveia was offensively, he was even better on defense at a demanding position. He committed 12 errors his freshman year but combined for just eight over the next three, recording a .973 fielding percentage in his final season.
“Once that nervousness went away after my freshman year, I was able to really apply what my coaches were giving me defensively,” Gouveia said. “Overall, I had the mindset that I wanted to make every play. I wanted that 1.000 fielding percentage no matter what.”
He’ll continue playing at Modesto Junior College and, he hopes, beyond that.
“I’m looking forward to the next level,” he said. “I want to play as long as I can and until they tell me not to anymore.”
Offensive Player of the Year
Gerald Nix, Ripon
Pitcher of the Year
Jason Silva, Sierra
Defensive Player of the Year
Matt Dunham, Sierra
Co-Utility Players of the Year
Austin Cappas, W. Ranch
Nolan Lingley, Ripon Chr.
Louis Aquila, Sierra
Amier Bowen, W. Ranch
Slyder Blyth, Sierra
Julian Cantu, Sierra
Rafael Diaz, Manteca
Carlos Drain, W. Ranch
John Eicher, Ripon,
Dylan Gross, Manteca
Jesse Ortiz-Martinez, Sierra
Fernando Segura, E. Union
Ryan Ward, Manteca