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BASEBALL: Zion Bell’s 3-run blast highlights Sierra win over Weston Ranch
Bulletin sports 2020-21
Weston Ranch’s Steven Bustamante slides into the tag of Sierra shortstop Tyler Looney while trying to stretch his fifth-inning leadoff hit into a double on Thursday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Zion Bell is getting his swing back in time for the final two weeks of the pandemic-abbreviated Valley Oak League baseball season. 

The senior center fielder who has committed to NCAA Division I Arkansas-Pine Bluff capped off a productive week with a thudding three-run blast that gave the Timberwolves some breathing room in a 10-3 win over visiting Weston Ranch on Thursday. 

Sierra (8-6) swept the two-game against the Cougars (3-11), while Bell went 5 for 6 overall with six runs, a double, triple, homer and three steals from the top of the order. He joined the team last month two weeks into the season and with no practices because he was starring as a receiver for the school’s football team during its spring campaign. 

“After so many practices and going to team dinners with the boys and stuff, it’s bound to happen at some point,” Bell said of his recent breakout.

Angel Valdez and Jordan Ordaz set the stage for Bell in the fourth inning with back-to-back singles. Bell waited on Rogelio Ruvalcaba’s 1-2 pitch, a breaking ball, and got every bit of it with his power-packed left-handed swing, sending it well over the left-center fence.

That widened the Timberwolves’ early lead to 9-1.

“Before that at-bat coach just told me simple line drive, so I was just trying to make contact and square the ball up as well as I could,” Bell said. “Thankfully, the ball just flew off the bat and scored some runs for us to get the team going.”

Bulletin sports 2020-21
Weston Ranch first baseman Zyale Sanger-Brown, right, makes a sliding catch near the dugout after avoiding a collision with catcher Steven Bustamante at Sierra. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Sierra got all the runs it needed in the first when it capitalized on two errors and scored five runs. The T’wolves totaled 11 hits. Brendan Rapisura finished 2 for 3 with a run. 

Zach Fonseca pitched 3 2/3 innings and was the winning pitcher, striking out four. He replaced starter Austin Frisk in the third after Zyale Brown-Sanger drew a bases-loaded walk for Weston Ranch’s first run. Sierra escaped further damage thanks to Fonseca’s four-pitch strikeout.

“I thought we did a good job, and today we did a better job of starting the game off from the first pitch ready to go,” Sierra coach Travis Thomson said. “Scored runs early, played defense, had some issues throwing strikes there but that’s why you get insurance runs. We hit the ball well.”

It was truly a team effort for his Timberwolves, who had 24 players enter the game. Included was Junior Rosas, whom Thomson decided to bring up after the freshman team had to cancel its season. The coach rewarded Rosas for his hard work in practice with his first varsity at-bat, which ended quickly as he grounded out to third base on the first pitch but made solid contact. His teammates applauded him for the effort. 

As for Weston Ranch, the team struggled to get timely hits and left 13 batters on base. Steven Bustamante (3 for 3, walk) and Dustin Tinsley (2 for 4) both singled and scored on an error in the seventh inning. Jose Aguilar contributed two hits on the day, and Andrew Montano reached on four of his five plate appearances while getting his three times. 

“Pitching got progressively better throughout the day, but we also made a couple big mental mistakes early that gave them a lot of their runs in the first inning,” Weston Ranch coach David Hager said. “We’re young, but we’re going to get better. We’ve built the foundation, we just have to keep putting more ont op of that and get stronger. We’ll get there eventually.”

East Union 5, Ripon Christian 4 (9)

Heads-up base running from Anthony Flores led to the deciding run for the Lancers (9-3, 10-3 overall) in their hard-earned win at Ripon Christian (6-8, 7-8).

Flores led off with a walk and advanced on Ryan VanArsdell’s sacrifice bunt. He then stole third and rounded the base as the ball skipped to the outfield on RC’s pickoff attempt at second. Flores beat the throw to the plate.

Austin Orr contributed all-around for the Lancers, hitting 4 for 4 with double, run, and RBI. After playing third base, he pitched the final three innings in relief and was nearly perfect in notching the win. Jacob Toste added two runs, finishing 2 for 4. 

Sophomores Micah English and Jacob Kowes had two hits apiece for the Knights. Dustin Hoekstra was RC’s workhorse pitcher, striking out seven over 7 1/3 innings. 

Central Catholic 6, Manteca 3

The host Buffaloes (8-6 VOL, 8-7 overall) took the lead with a three-run rally in the fourth inning. Central Catholic (10-4, 11-5) then scored all of its runs over the final three frames, including three in the seventh for the win.

Manteca freshman Rex Watson scorched a two-run double and was knocked in by Mikey Elder. Starting pitcher  Zach Todd struck out six in six innings.