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Sierra one win away from first title
Sierra’s Iyana Hughes beats the tag from Manteca High infielder Mia Ramirez for a two-out double that helped spark the host Timberwolves’ two-out, six-run rally in the fourth inning Tuesday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Sierra’s softball team is one game away from capturing the school’s first-ever Valley Oak League championship after beating visiting rival Manteca High 9-3 on Tuesday.

Check that.

The Timberwolves (11-1, 20-1-1 overall) are apparently in no mood for sharing.

“No, no, we need to win two more,” Sierra coach Nick Olmo said while laughing and shaking his head simultaneously.

They lead two-time defending champion Oakdale by a game with two to go. One more guarantees a piece, but two is for the outright crown.

Sierra wraps up its VOL schedule against Sonora Thursday and East Union on May 10.

“We all just want to get that first banner up on the wall,” said Sierra shortstop Daylynn Penner, the team’s only starting senior. “We talked as a team in our little huddle about keeping it together. It’s hard, but we’re trying to keep focus on one game at a time.”

Keeping focus was a challenge for Sierra Tuesday after an exhausting two-day run in the NorCal Classic in Tracy, where the Timberwolves won the tournament’s most competitive bracket — the Platinum Division, which featured some of the state’s top programs.

The players came into Monday’s practice fatigued and struggled to amp up the intensity.

“Everyone was really sore and tired, but we had to pull through it,” Penner said.

Freshman standout Allison Walljasper threw all 27 innings in Sierra’s three games (including a no-hitter in the opener against co-host West) in the NorCal Classic. She pitched five scoreless innings Tuesday with a sore arm and was relieved by freshman Lexus Barnes, a catcher who hasn’t pitched in a couple years. She was also 3 for 3 at the plate.

Though Walljasper didn’t have her best stuff, she still managed to strike out four while walking none and scattering three hits.

Manteca (7-6, 13-8) scored all three of its runs in the sixth inning.

“Ally had us more off guard today than last time we faced her because today she came out throwing change-up and offspeed and then popped in a little fastball here and there,” Manteca coach Corey Navarro said. “That was tough for us because we came in expecting speed.”

Manteca let a big opportunity to score on Walljasper slip away in the second inning with runners on the corners and two out, but pitcher clutched up with a full-count strikeout to end the threat.

Sierra scored three unearned runs aided by two errors in the third, and in the fourth the Timberwolves broke it open with a two-out, six-run rally.

Lily Gonzales (2 for 3) led off with a big shot to center field for a double, though she was robbed of a home run when Manteca outfielder Mariah Navarro tracked it down on the run and leaped to knock it down with her glove.

Iyana Hughes later kept the onslaught alive with a double and was driven in by Penner, who finished 2 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs.

Elia Vasquez (2 for 3, three RBIs) roped a two-run double, and Barnes put the finishing touches on the rally with a two-RBI single to left.

Rochele Perez was 2 for 3 with an RBI to lead Manteca. Hailee Teixeira drove in a run when she was hit by a pitch in the sixth. Mariah Navarro, Selena Gonzalez and Brooke Mejorado each scored a run in the inning.

The Buffaloes will finish out their first season under Coach Navarro Thursday at home against Oakdale. Their postseason aspirations were dashed by last week’s 7-5 loss to first-year varsity Kimball, which clinched the third of the three Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoff berths.

“They know the end is coming, and our biggest hope was to make the playoffs this year,” he said. “They really wanted to get to that level and it fell through against Kimball.

“Right now we’re just shooting to be upsetters. Today it didn’t happen for us, but on Thursday we’re going to try our hardest to beat Oakdale.”

Sierra 3, Manteca 0

At Sierra, Katelynn Perkins logged a complete-game three-hitter and struck out seven to no walks to help the Timberwolves improve to 10-2 in the VOL and 16-4 overall.

Katelyn Salcedo was 2 for 3 with two doubles and a run. Reserve Rosie Reynolds was productive in her only at-bat, scorching an RBI single with two strikes and two outs during Sierra’s two-run sixth inning.