Manteca High pitching ace Ryan Ward was sharp in Friday's season opener.
Against visiting Atwater, he retired the first nine batters in order during the 4-3 non-league win.
"I started throwing earlier (than in recent years) — in mid-January or two months after football ended," said Ward, who is a junior and a third-year varsity player.
He along with junior outfielder Dominic Rea and senior shortstop Alex Gouveia are among the few returners from a year ago.
"We have six or seven players with little to no varsity experience playing today," said Buffaloes coach Neil MacDannald. "I'm proud of the way they played."
Rea understood what it's like to play that first game at this level.
"We've all been there," he said. "You just have to be positive (with them) even when they make mistakes."
The Buffaloes (1-0) wasted little time on offense. Gouveia ripped a one-out double to right field in the opening inning. He was followed by Ryan Ward's RBI single to right.
Manteca made 3-0 in the second.
Cody Stonum and Kevin Thornburg opened with a walk and single, respectively. Christian Tonna advanced both runners with a fielder's choice with a grounder along the right side, and Nathan Gutierrez and Rea, who had three hits, came through with back-to-back RBIs.
Atwater (0-1) opened the fourth with consecutive doubles. Both extra base hits led to runs, trimming the Buffaloes' lead, 3-2.
Ward helped his cause by leading off the bottom of the fifth with double to left that hugged the line.
Three batters later, Stonum delivered him home with a two-out single. That run also proved to be the difference in the outcome.
Ahead 4-2, the Buffaloes ran into some problems in the top of the seventh and final frame.
Falcons had two runners on board while pushing across a run, taking advantage of a lead-off error and two straight singles.
Senior reliever Dylan Guice bounced back from giving up an RBI single by retiring the next three batters on a ground out, a called strike three and a close-out strikeout.
"Dylan did an outstanding job in relief," said Ward, who went six innings, allowing three hits with six strikeouts and yielding two walks.
He also chipped in with two hits while junior first baseman Rafael Diaz had a double.
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