Shades of Sierra’s 2019 Valley Oak League championship team were on display Tuesday at Manteca, as the Timberwolves scrapped their way to a confidence-boosting 4-3 victory that came down to an outfield assist from Austin Frisk on the final play.
Sierra (1-2) was coming off a frustrating season-opening series against Kimball, which soundly swept the two-game set by a combined 16-1 score.
“This is where you see our true colors,” Sierra coach Travis Thomson said. “We kind of got our teeth knocked in last week, and these boys made a decision that it’s not going to slow them down.”
Manteca (2-1) scored all of its runs in the third inning, and the T’wolves took the lead with two in the top of the seventh. The Buffaloes threatened to send the game into extra innings after Jayson Ingraca walked with one out and later wound up on third on a two-base throwing error on a catcher back pick.
Frisk ended it moments later with a double play.
Ingraca looked to score on Mikey Elder’s flyball out to center field, but Frisk flung a strike to catcher Jeremy Dalen for a play at the plate that was not close.
Frisk later joked that he barely caught the tail-end of the play, as his shades slid off his face while following through on his heroic heave.
“All of us in the outfield talked about it before (the start of the inning) — any ball that’s hit, they’re running,” Frisk said. “When it was in the air I went and got it and let it fly.”
Manteca coach Mark Ruiz didn’t second-guess his decision to send Ingraca, instead giving credit to Frisk.
“You gotta tip your cap to him, that was a great throw,” Ruiz said. “We gave ourselves a chance and he made a great play.”
Both teams struggled to string together hits — Manteca was held to four, while half of Sierra’s six knocks didn’t leave the infield — and made untimely errors that led to runs. In the end, the Timberwolves capitalized on back-to-back hit batsmen after trailing 3-2 to start the seventh.
Santi Duarte and Dalen were beaned by Sonny Elder, and the runners (Zac Cook pinch ran for Duarte) advanced on a wild pitch. Zion Bell had earlier tried to bunt them over but fouled off the first two pitches. He redeemed himself by driving in the tying run on a groundout.
Angel Valdez then hit a sharp grounder that skipped passed the Manteca shortstop, allowing Dalen to dart home for the go-ahead run.
“We’re not a team that’s going to hit the ball over the fence,” Thomson said. “Offensively, our game plan is as simple as try to get the ball in play on time and then let baseball take care of itself.”
Bell finished 0 for 3 with a walk in his season debut. The third-year senior standout is in the middle of his first and only season with the Sierra football team, starring at wide receiver. He had his first baseball practice on Monday and is juggling the two sports for the next two weeks.
“It was pretty fun,” Bell said. “These boys make it comfortable and easy for me to come back from a different sport.”
Zach Fonseca (two strikeouts, three hits, three walks) pitched the first four innings for Sierra, Jakob Lopez got the win after two innings in relief and Brendan Rapisura notched the save. The Timberwolves committed three errors but made big plays over the final three innings, including Dalen’s throw-out of a runner attempting to steal second in the fifth and Rapisura’s 6-4 double play to end the sixth after catching a line drive.
We didn’t have a perfectly clean game today but we’re getting a lot better real quick,” Thomson said. “We made the plays that needed to be made and that’s the sign of a good team.”
Alex Murrietta (hit by pitch), Mikey Elder (walked) and Rex Watson (singled) plated Manteca’s runs in the third, scoring on a wild pitch, outfield error and infield error, respectively.
Manteca starter Zach Todd struck out nine over 5 2/3 innings and was relieved after 103 pitches. He allowed two runs on six hits and three walks. The Buffaloes misplayed three balls that helped lead to Sierra’s runs.
“The errors definitely played a factor in the game,” Ruiz said. “It’s just something we have to get better with for Thursday. I know they’re going to be ready so we need to be ready to go.”
East Union 12, Escalon 2 (5)
The Lancers (3-0 VOL, 4-0 overall) overcame early miscues that led to unearned runs that spotted host Escalon (1-2) a 2-1 lead in the first inning.
That did little to faze winning pitcher Willie Segura, who struck out five over four innings in a combined one-hitter. Benny Slaughter faced four batters in the fifth.
“We did enough to win, but we didn’t play as well as we did last week,” East Union coach Carlos Herrera said. “Willie was the mainstay on the mound and carried us a little bit. It wasn’t our best game overall. We’ll look to bounce back and play our brand of baseball on Thursday.”
East Union busted it open with four runs in each of the second and fourth innings to go up, 9-2. The Lancers totaled nine hits and were aggressive on the base paths, coming up with eight steals including three from Segura.
Mateo Guevara finished 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs. Carlos Alvarez knocked in three runs, going 2 for 4 to go with a pair of steals. JP Perazzo was 2 for 3 with an RBI.