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BASEBALL: Buffs blast way into VOL final
Manteca backs pitcher’s gem in upset win over top-seeded East Union
Bulletin sports 2020-21
Manteca ace pitcher Zach Todd gave up just two hits and struck out nine in his complete-game win at East Union on Tuesday. - photo by Wayne Thallander

Zach Todd and Manteca can put that no-hit loss behind them and look ahead to the biggest game of the season.

Bulletin sports 2020-21
Manteca’s Zach Todd connects for a solo home run in the top of the first inning at East Union. - photo by SEAN KAHLER
The Buffaloes, buoyed by Todd’s two-hit gem and tone-setting home run, blasted top-seeded East Union 10-2 Tuesday at Agostini Field and will next face No. 2 Central Catholic in the finale of the four-team Valley Oak League postseason tournament.

On April 22, Todd and the fourth-seeded Buffs (12-8) were done in by errors in a 2-0 loss against these same Lancers (16-4) and on the same field despite keeping their rivals hitless. The defeat completed East Union’s regular-season sweep of Manteca. 

“I told all my guys I don’t care what happened last time, I have all my trust in you guys,” Todd said. “I know they felt really bad about (losing) that no-hitter. 

“We just turned on the jets today. I am so proud of them, because I have never seen this team play so well. It felt so great to be able to pitch with so much trust behind me.”

Todd himself wasn’t too shabby. His two-hit masterpiece included nine strikeouts against three walks and two hit batters. 

“Zach is a leader on the team and we can always count on him to compete, especially on the mound,” Manteca coach Mark Ruiz said. “He did a great job. Couldn’t ask for anything more from him.”

Todd also delivered the first blow offensively. In the top of the first, East Union’s Benny Slaughter — the first of five Lancers to toe the rubber — started strong by striking out the first two batters he faced.

Todd quickly changed everything with his team-leading third home run of the season, driving it to straightaway center. 

“I haven’t been hitting so great, but I had to find a way to get my team on the board,” Todd said. “I honestly thought that was a double but it turned out to be over the fence. It’s a great feeling to get the team going and have that confidence early in the game.”

Landan Chamberlain and Andrew Maki followed with singles, and although they did not score the energy on the field was clearly in the Buffaloes’ dugout. Manteca never gave up the lead.

Bulletin sports 2020-21
Manteca first baseman Andrew Maki reaches for the ball as East Union’s Jacob Toste sprints to the bag while trying to avoid the projectile. - photo by WAYNE THALANDER

"My takeaway from it is Coach Ruiz had his guys ready and I didn’t,” East Union coach Carlos Herrera said. “This is on me. It showed on the field. They came, they were ready and we weren’t. That’s what it boiled down to. They were more prepared and wanted it more than us. 

“This game is not a snapshot or a summary of our season at all. It just came down to they executed and we didn’t today.”

While Manteca was undoubtedly on its game, luck was not on the side of the Lancers. Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the second, they were only able to get one run across after loading the bases with no outs. Todd and the Buffaloes escaped further damage thanks to a 4-6-3 double play. 

It was a close call at first as J.P. Perazzo appeared to reach the bag as the ball arrived. Instead of tying it, East Union fell further behind in the third as Manteca rallied for five runs. Todd sparked it with a sun-aided double to right.

“In any situation or any game you get heartbreaking plays like that,” Herrera said. “If a call doesn’t go your way and you lose focus for a second it could cost you, and that ended up costing us.”

The Buffaloes went on to plate three more runs in the fifth and totaled 16 hits, getting production in every spot in the lineup while not committing any errors defensively. Todd finished 2 for 3 at the plate with three runs, an intentional walk and was hit once. 

Other key contributors were Dylan DePrater (2 for 5, run, RBI), Alex Murrietta (double), Chamberlain (2 for 4, run, walk), Maki (2 for 3, run, walk), Joaquin

Bulletin sports 2020-21
Manteca batter Mikey Elder lifts it to left-center field for a bloop single in the second inning Tuesday at East Union. - photo by WAYNE THALANDER
Gurrola (2 for 4, double, three RBIs, run), Mikey Elder (2 for 4, two runs, two RBIs), Rex Watson (1 for 3, sac bunt) and Carson Smith (2 for 4, double, run, RBI).

“Our whole team went in with a lot of confidence,” Ruiz said. “We had a really good practice yesterday and really put it together. I think we just played our best game of the year.”

Both of East Union’s runs were scored by clean-up hitter Mateo Guevara, who singled and walk. He was driven in by Justin Severson’s bases-loaded walk in the second and a wild pitch in the sixth. Carlos Alvarez had the Lancers’ other hit.

Manteca has one more chance at avenging a regular-season sweep Thursday when it is slated to meet Central Catholic (15-6) in Modesto starting at 4 p.m. The Raiders defeated No. 3 Oakdale 6-3 on Tuesday. 

Even with no official league title or Sac-Joaquin Section playoff spots to play for, both clubs will likely be up for the final.

 “This is huge,” Ruiz said. “This is going to be big for them for next year. Hopefully, win or lose on Thursday we can just build on top of this. There’s no Section championship but we’re playing for something. We’re definitely excited.”