MODESTO — Manteca fought back from a five-run deficit to force a tie after five innings, only for a sixth-inning error to eventually lead to the go-ahead run for Central Catholic.
The host Raiders prevailed 8-7 in the final round of the Valley Oak League post-season baseball tournament on Thursday.
“This was definitely a tough loss,” Manteca coach Mark Ruiz said. “We got down 5-0, battled back and showed a lot of heart. I was very happy with our team.
“I had a lot of confidence with this team. They just started showing their potential the last couple of weeks which I was very happy for. I kind of always saw us getting here, for sure.”
Andrew Maki (2 for 3, two runs) singled and scored a run for Manteca (11-8 VOL, 12-9 overall) in both the fourth and the fifth innings when the Buffaloes totaled all of their seven runs.
“I felt comfortable trying to see the ball and put it in play,” Maki said. “I was just trying to help get runners on so we could score.”
Mikey Elder had the big hit of the seven-run Buffaloes rally with a two-RBI double in the seventh. Zach Todd, Landan Chamberlain, Joaquin Gurrola and Rex Watson added singles during the rally.
Watson started the game on fire in center field, making a diving catch coming in and a diving catch going out and nearly made a third circus catch but came up inches short on the effort.
“I came out and I really wanted to beat them — really bad,” Watson said. “So I came out very excited and very ready.
“I got good jumps on all three and almost caught all three, but that last one bounced off the tip of my glove,”
With Watson being a freshman, Ruiz is looking forward to what he can accomplish.
“He made some great plays,” Ruiz said of Watson. “He had great effort. He has a ton of potential and that is why he is here as a freshman.”
Central Catholic coach Danny Ayala knew the game with Manteca was going to be a tough one.
“When you have playoff and championship baseball, you are going to expect a dogfight,” Ayala said. “Guys are going to keep coming at you and scoring runs. So we had to find out if we were wired and built the right way and if we were going to keep competing.
“And they did what they were supposed to do. They kept answering back every time it looked like it was a hardship. I am proud of them.”
Fernando Alaniz homered for the Raiders (12-7, 13-8). Braxton Thomas (triple) and Tyler Van Dyk were both 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run and Tyler Wentworth picked up the win, pitching the last two innings and striking out three.