Adrian Sevier-Aflleje pitched a gem for East Union on Wednesday and Manteca High committed two seventh-inning errors that led to the only run of the game in a 1-0 road win for the Lancers in the Valley Oak League finale for both teams.
“This was a great baseball game,” East Union coach Dan Triglia said. “Two teams just getting after it.”
The Lancers (9-5 VOL, 12-11 overall) led Sierra by a game coming into Wednesday’s contest and although it was possible to end up in a tie with the Timberwolves, most scenarios saw the fourth and final playoff slot going to East Union. Triglia did not want to leave any doubt.
“They clinched the championship yesterday and we were trying to fight our way into the playoffs. We didn’t want to back into it, we wanted to win the ball game,” Triglia said. “There was no give-up on either side. (Devin) Sullivan pitched a great game for them but Adrian (Sevier-Aflleje) pitched just a little bit better and we were able to squeak out a run.”
With one out in the top of the seventh, Lucas Dias hit an infield grounder and the throw to first was off the mark. Jake Harries came in to run for Dias and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Jack Weaver. Sevier-Aflleje then hit a grounder that was too hot to handle, getting past the infield and allowing Harries to score from second.
“It was a gift from God,” Sevier-Aflleje said of reaching on an error in the seventh. “That’s all I can say.
“It was routine, but I guess I hit it hard enough where he couldn’t field it. It was a lucky swing and we are glad it went through.”
Sevier-Aflleje gave up only one hit, a single to Ronaldo Tijero in the sixth inning. Sevier-Aflleje had just two strikeouts, both in the seventh inning, and one of those was for the final out of the game.
“The defense told me they would have my back from the first pitch all the way to the last one,” Sevier-Aflleje said. “So I just had to let them work today and it showed they were ready. They weren’t letting me down and I didn’t want to let them down.”
Devin Sullivan had an outstanding effort on the hill for the Buffaloes (11-3, 19-7), allowing just one hit – a leadoff double to Marco Gonzales in the fourth inning. Gonzales pitched East Union to a 5-2 win over Manteca on Monday.
“On Monday we had our backs against the wall coming out against the No. 1 team,” Gonzales said. “That win got us fired up for this game and Adrian (Sevier-Aflleje) pitched one heck of a game.
“The double was just right there. Coach (Gene) Ballardo preaches to get the pitch you want and I just laced it into right field.”
The fielding miscues did not sit well with Buffaloes coach Neil MacDannald.
“Hats off to them,” MacDannald said. “They made plays when we didn’t. And the other thing I will say is our kid Sullivan pitched his tail off. He pitched through several errors and had a guy on third with no outs and pitched out of that situation. We are still waiting on the earned run from this game.
“We are a team that hangs its hat on playing defense. All year long we knew we were not going to strike people out and our infielders had many, many more chances by far compared to other teams in the league because we don’t have strikeout pitchers. We take our defense very seriously and today just wasn’t our day. For whatever reason, we struggled playing catch a little bit.”
The Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs begin with out-bracket games on Monday at home sites and continue on Thursday at McAuliffe Memorial Ballparks in Sacramento. The brackets will be announced today.
“It’s tough losing to a rival but we are league champs and you don’t become that by magic – we are league champs because those guys worked their butts off,” MacDannald said. “And they are resilient. It burns a little bit but we are going to show up tomorrow and get better at practice and be really confident we can make a deep playoff run.”
East Union 10, Manteca 4
The Lancers (8-3, 12-6) finished one game behind league champion Oakdale.
Andrew Mount led them in Tuesday’s season finale with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs. Daniel Ruiz (2 for 5, double, RBI) and Anthony Contreras (2 for 3, run) each rapped two hits of their own, and Michael Anaya got one to drop on his first and only at-bat of the season.
Samuel Nieves was the winning pitcher after throwing three innings in relief.