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Underclassmen clutch up for Manteca in last inning
Annissa Gonzalez of Manteca times her lead off the first-base bag as Weston Ranch pitcher Arianna Hernandez winds up. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

The youngest part of Manteca High’s lineup accounted for six of the team’s seven total hits as well as the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the seventh inning of a 3-2 comeback win over visiting Weston Ranch.

“The underclassmen came through, two freshmen and two sophomores,” Manteca coach Corey Navarro said after Monday’s victory.

Yes, the future looks bright for the Buffaloes (4-3 Valley Oak League, 7-5 overall), but this season they aim to reach the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. Getting past an equally dangerous Weston Ranch club (2-5, 7-7) was a step in that direction.

Aryanna Hernandez (two RBIs) capped the no-out rally with a walk-off single to right. She was set up by Melanie Ramos’ perfectly-executed push bunt that rolled into the outfield grass in left and drove in a run. Tawny Deerinck (two runs) and Sierra Martinez (2 for 2, double) set the table with a single and a walk, respectively.

“Coach said to get it down because (third baseman Christina Washington) was playing back, but if she charges just push it past her,” said Ramos, who finished 2 for 3. “I’m a lefty so I have to work on a lot of bunting and slapping.”

She did what three others could not all game. Manteca had run-scoring opportunities thwarted by three popped-up bunts that went for double plays. The Buffaloes had the bases juiced with one out in the second when Washington turned one of those double plays, but not before scratching across the first run of the game on Martinez’s bases-loaded walk.

“We couldn’t get a bunt down to save our lives,” Navarro said. “It was a lucky win for us. They were more intense than we were. They came more ready to play than we did. Weston Ranch is a scrappy team that can beat any good team.”

Elysia Hernandez (two walks) plated both of Weston Ranch’s runs. She was driven in on Contreras’ groundout in the third to tie it at 1-1, and the Cougars jumped ahead in the fifth with Arianna Hernandez’s base hit.

Winning pitcher Peyton Rose rung up eight strikeouts and walked three in her five-hitter. She struck out the side in order in the sixth and wriggled out of a two-on, no-out jam in the top of the seventh. Weston Ranch left eight runners on base, six of them in scoring position.

“Overall we played well but this is a tough one to swallow,” Weston Ranch coach Janelle Bauer said. “Last year, we came here and had a lead going into the seventh inning and gave up a win. We needed this one.”