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Almeida, Torres help Manteca eke out win over East Union
Manteca-East Union softball
Jessica Almeida celebrates her RBI hit with a coach during Manteca's 2-0 win against East Union. - photo by Wayne Thallander

Clutch pitching and timely hitting for Manteca proved to be the difference Thursday, as the Buffaloes downed host East Union 2-0 in Valley Oak League Softball action at Northgate Softball Complex on Garvine Field.

Whenever the Lancers (1-4 VOL, 10-6 overall) got into scoring position, Manteca pitcher Nayellys Torres would find her way out of the jam. She totaled 10 strikeouts, four coming with East Union runners in scoring position.

“I was just focused on throwing strikes,” Torres said. “I didn’t let those base runners get to me, because I knew if I thought about them bad things would happen. I just stayed focused with our catcher Lo (Lauren Moncada), and I threw strikes.”

Torres allowed just four hits with no more than one in an inning.

“She (Torres) has been striking batters out with runners in scoring position a lot lately,” Buffaloes coach Josh Farris said. “It gets our heart rate up. I just call her Houdini, because she gets in and out of trouble. She bares down and makes our life a lot easier when she gets those big key strikeouts. We are super proud of her for competing.

“We didn’t swing the bat well. You have to tip your hat to their pitcher (Layla Molina). She keeps you off balance, which is not what we wanted to do. We struck out a little more than we would like to, especially when we had runners at second. Good thing Nelly pitched the way she did, because like I said, she backed it up for us today.”

Jessica Almeida (2 for 3, RBI, run) scored a run and knocked in another for Manteca (2-3, 13-5). In the first inning she singled and came around to score on a single by Marissa San Nicolas and in the fifth Jocelyn Baptist led off the frame with a double to the center-field fence and scored on Almeida’s bloop single to right.

“I had an idea of where she would pitch me,” Almeida said. “Because of how she has pitched me in the past. So I went with the pitch and got it to the right side of the field.

“Before the at-bat we were talking about hitting to the right side because that has helped us tremendously.”

The game ended under a cloud. With one out in the bottom of the seventh, East Union leadoff batter Caliyah Lopez tried to leg out her second bunt single of the night and was called out on a bang-bang play at first. Lancers coach Matt Cooper appealed the call, which appeared to be reversed, and then it was not reversed. When the dust settled, Lopez was out, Cooper was ejected and the game lasted one more batter.

“We’re going to lose every game when we score zero runs,” Cooper said. “Hats off to Nelly (Torres), Nelly threw good. Layla (Molina) threw great. They just hit two little bleeders that scored some runs.

“They got the bleeders, and we didn’t get the bleeders. Those things happen. They got some timely hits and we didn’t. We have to grind out the rest of the season to make playoffs. When you play crosstown rivals in league little mistakes happen.”

Molina tallied three 1-2-3 innings and struck out five, allowing six hits.

The Buffaloes host Tracy on Monday and begin the second half of the VOL season at Sierra on Tuesday with both games at 4 p.m. On Tuesday, the Lancers host Kimball at 5 p.m.