The run of a tremendous tandem will be coming to a close soon, but what a wild ride it has been.
Manteca senior Kyle Rachels and junior Alex Gouveia have been teammates at one level or another for most of the last 10 years, and Tuesday in a 7-2 win over visiting No. 9 American Canyon in opening-round action of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs, the middle infielders were in on four double plays and were a combined 4 for 7 with four RBI, a double, triple and two runs.
“That ought to be a high-school record if you ask me,” second baseman Rachels said of the four double plays. “That’s what we bank our team on — defense.
“We pick up our pitcher when guys get on base. Those are the routine plays we have to make.”
The Wolves (12-12-1) got their leadoff batter on board in every inning but the second and seventh, and along with first baseman Dylan Gross the No. 8 Buffaloes (17-9-1) turned double plays in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings.
“Those four double plays in the middle infield were pretty special,” Manteca coach Neil MacDannald said. “All those things good baseball teams do we did.
“It was super fun to watch and fun to be a part of. Our approach at the plate was much improved from our last series when runs were at a premium. We have something special going on here and they understand it, and I am really proud and impressed with the way they matured up and have kept trying to get better, even this late in the year.”
In addition to racking up the double plays, Manteca tallied seven extra-base hits. In a three-run second, Gouveia (2 for 3, three RBI, double, two runs) doubled in two runs and Rachels (2 for 4, RBI, triple) tripled in one. In a three-run fourth, Dylan Gross and Isaac Maldonado led off the frame with doubles and Gross was plated by a Gouveia single. Zach Chamberlain doubled in Maldonodo and Gouveia for a 6-2 lead.
“If we execute and play the way we know how, good things will happen,” Gouveia said.
Christian Cruz doubled in the first inning for Manteca.
Rafael Diaz — a sophomore — went the distance on the hill for the Buffaloes, sprinkling six hits with three strikeouts and one walk. His effort allows Manteca to use its other sophomore, second-year ace Ryan Ward, for its second-round contest at top-seeded Christian Brothers of Sacramento on Thursday.
“I am proud of Raf and how he kept his faith and kept pounding the zone,” MacDannald said. “He’s not on our team for nothing. He pitched Game 2 of every league series but one.
“We have five guys that could start for us and we have faith in all five, but it just so happened we pulled Raf’s number and I am really proud of his effort.”