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BASEBALL: Manteca locked in battle for playoff spot
Ward draws walk-off walk for needed win over Kimball
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In pursuit of a postseason berth, Manteca High came away with a 5-4 walk-off victory over visiting Kimball on Wednesday.
Ryan Ward drew a bases-loaded walk, delivering home Christian Tonna with no outs in the seventh inning.
"I love walk-off wins," said Buffalo assistant coach Dave Camara, who was filling in for the absent Neil MacDannald.
At stake was one of the three remaining playoff spots in the Valley Oak League — the top four teams advance to playoffs with Sierra High already clinching the No. 1 slot. Central Catholic blanked Oakdale 4-0 Wednesday, putting both clubs in a four-way tie for second place with Manteca (14-8 overall) and Kimball (15-7).
The Buffaloes head to Tracy on Friday to end their two-game set with the Jaguars.
"I know I'm looking forward to it," said Manteca shortstop Alex Gouveia, who went 4 for 4 against Kimball hurler Gabe Cortinas. "We'll have to stay hungry."
Ward started for the Buffaloes (5-4 VOL, 14-8), helping himself out of the first-inning jam by picking off a runner at second and applying the tag at home after getting the throw from catcher Dominic Day, who also threw out a runner trying to steal second in the second.
Kimball (5-4 VOL, 15-7) by then had taken a 1-0 lead thanks to Garrett Bacchetti's extra base hit to the sun-drenched right field. Kyle Gibson had the RBI single.
Manteca finally got its offense untracked in the fourth, stringing together three runs on three hits and a throwing error.
Ward led off with a double along the left side, scoring on the miscue at first on a comebacker by Day.  After Dylan Gross' single, freshman Zach Todd delivered a two-run double to deep center.
"Zach put another good swing on his next at bat," Camara said.
The Jaguars tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth. Jake Wilson, who led off with a single, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Max Level's RBI single. Chris Sieg delivered on a two-out double, plating J.J. de Perio, who reached base on a fielder's choice.
Gross singled to open the sixth and was replaced by pinch runner Kevin Thornburg.
The Buffaloes played small ball from there, with Dylan Guice moving Thornburg to second on a sacrifice bunt and Todd hitting a grounder to short to get the runner to third.
Thornburg scored on a wild pitch.
Kimball tied the game at 4-4 in the top half of the seventh. Wilson singled, advanced on a fielder's choice and moved over to third on de Perio’s infield single (Gouveia made a stop deep in the hole but couldn't get the putout at first).
Wilson scored on a balk.
Manteca countered one last time with Tonna delivering a lead-off hit. Nathan Gutierrez walked and Gouveia singled to load the bases.
Ward worked the count before drawing the game-winning run with a walk.
"That's a quality team," Camara said of the Jaguars. "They have good pitching. They don't make very many mistakes. And they execute well playing small ball."