Lucas Vaughn had a mixture of pitches working Thursday afternoon, but his curve ball specifically had the Kimball lineup baffled.
Vaughn tossed 14 strikeouts (seven looking) with no walks and gave two hits during six innings of shutout baseball as the Buffaloes earned an 8-0 victory against Kimball (3-9 VOL, 5-16 overall).
The win kept Manteca (12-0, 20-2) atop of the Valley Oak League standings in front of Sierra (11-1, 19-3) with the two closing the season against one other Monday and Tuesday.
“(Vaughn) had it going today,” Manteca head coach Neil MacDannald said. “And when we had to make plays behind him we battled and were tough out there. We had some really nice approaches.”
Vaughn improved to 9-0 and also got the job done from the batter’s box. He led off the bottom of four with a shot to the warning track for a double and eventually scored to make it 3-0 when Joe Menzel registered the first of his three RBIs to bring him across. Ezequiel Diaz made it 4-0 when he crossed the dish after Greg Jones hit into a no-out double play.
Despite the contest remaining scoreless for the first two and half innings, Manteca broke it open in the bottom of three when Dominick Pisano registered an RBI double up the first-base line that brought Menzel across to make it 1-0.
Michael Garibay (1 for 2, run), who made the final out of the game despite mishandling the hop and still got it to Corn at first, stole home on a passed ball for the Buffaloes’ second run.
Vaughn (2 for 4) only faced 20 batters in six innings and gave up a double in the second and a single in the fifth.
Alex Jorgensen closed it for Manteca and gave up one hit and threw two strikeouts.
“I had all the confidence in the world and was throwing a lot of strikes,” said Vaughn, who had the Delta College baseball coach showing him interest after the game. “My curve ball was on point and I was keeping my fastball at the knees and they couldn’t touch it.”
Manteca jumped out 5-0 in the bottom of the fifth after Buddy Reeder (2 for 4, triple, run) led off with a double and scored after he traded places with Jake Corn (1 for 3, run, RBI). Menzel knocked in Corn and Diaz with a two-RBI single to make it 7-0 later in the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Reeder connected on an RBI-triple that brought home Pisano to make up the final and set up next week’s showdown.
“Getting this done gives us an opportunity to play for a (VOL) championship, something that hasn’t been done here since 1985,” MacDannald said. “And these guys have earned it with their hard work. That’s a great ball club over there (at Sierra). I’m just real proud of the boys for their seven innings worth of focus and intensity (Thursday).”
Sierra will host Manteca on Monday and then will come to Manteca’s yard Tuesday having to win both games in order to snatch the VOL title away from its cross-town rival.
Manteca can clinch the outright title with a win Monday as it sends its Oregon-bound ace Corn to the hill with a chance to win league for the first time since the mid-80s.
“Two more games,” Vaughn concluded. “It’s pretty big for us. We’re going after (Sierra) full force.”