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BASEBALL: Manteca falls to reigning champion Christian Brothers
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SACRAMENTO — Manteca saved its pitching ace for top-seeded Christian Brothers, which also had its top hurler available for the second-round Sac-Joaquin Section Division III contest Thursday.

Christian Brothers’ Jacob Tucker had given up just three earned runs in 12 appearances going into the game, and he had plenty of offensive support in the 10-4 victory that advances the reigning champion to the double-elimination round.

Sophomore Ryan Ward lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits and four walks for Manteca (17-10-1). Last year, Ward was on the mound for the Buffaloes’ 4-1 win in their best-of-three semifinal against the Falcons.

Christian Brothers (22-5), crowned the 2017 Division III Team of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports, jumped out to a lead in the first inning thanks to Michael Ingram’s two-run homer. 

“(Ward) battled,” Manteca coach Neil MacDannald said. “The score does not indicate how well he pitched. They have a tough lineup and he probably made some mistakes here and there, but there were some weird bounces that went against him.

“I’m proud of the way the kid competed. Sometimes the result is not what we want but the process was decent. He pitched his tail off and gave us all he had. Sometimes you just tip your cap to the other team.” 

The Buffaloes didn’t go away quietly, tying it with two runs in the bottom of the second. Christian Brothers inched away with eight unanswered runs over the next four innings including four in the fourth. Manteca plated its final two in the seventh and finished with 10 hits. Ward knocked in two of the Buffaloes’ runs.

Dylan Guice and fourth-year senior Kyle Rachels pitched in relief. Rachels also went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI, as did fellow senior Ferrin Manuleleua (run).

Kade McKenchie went 3 for 4 and plated three runs to pace Christian Brothers’ loaded lineup. Jon Stone was 2 for 4 with an RBI, and JT Waldon finished 2 for 2 with two runs.      “It’s a testament to our guys, they played hard until the bitter end,” MacDannald said. “I’m proud of the way they competed for seven innings, we just ran into a very talented team. That’s the best team we’ve played all year, and we’ve played some pretty tough teams.”

Christian Brothers faces Sierra on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. at the University of the Pacific.