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Corn carries no-hitter into seventh, beats EU
Manteca junior Jake Corn (9) struck out 12 in a 2-hit masterpiece against East Union on Tuesday. - photo by Wayne Thallander

Jake Corn stepped off the rubber, thumped the rosin bag off his left hand and calmed himself.

Within moments, his no-hitter was erased, and now, with runners dancing off first and second, his victory was in peril too.

Or so you would think.

The lefty had one more bit of magic left, escaping his only jam on Tuesday.

Corn got Jake Danhoff to flail at an off-speed pitch off the plate and then induced a game-ending pop up, wrapping up a 2-0 masterpiece against highly touted Jordan Kron and crosstown rival East Union.

“You’re going to run into the best pitcher that program has every Tuesday. Today, we had two good pitchers going at it,” East Union coach Dan Triglia said, hanging over the dugout fencing.

“Corn was tough. He was in command of all of his pitchers. We just didn’t do a good job of making the right adjustments.”

For six-plus innings, Corn was on cruise control. He  struck out 12, walked none and came within two outs of a no-hitter.

He also drove in a run, looping a single into shallow left field. The ball fell between three Lancers, allowing Ezequiel Diaz to score from second without a throw in the third.

“Every time he comes out here, he takes it seriously. No one works harder than Jake Corn and I mean that. No one on this team works as hard as him,” Manteca coach Gene Ballardo said. “He sets the tone for the whole team. Jake’s performance was outstanding.”

The game pitted two of the Valley Oak League’s top arms – a twice-a-week workout buddies – against one another.

Neither disappointed.

With his jerky motion, smeared eye black and zip fastball, Kron cast an intimidating presence on the mound.

Still, the senior bound for UC Riverside in the fall on a baseball scholarship wasn’t nearly as sharp as Corn. He allowed two runs on five hits in six innings, and pitched out of jams throughout.

Part of the problem: His boys in the field didn’t do him any favors. East Union committed just one error, but two mental mistakes early fueled Manteca’s confidence against Kron.

Center fielder Jesus Esquivel misjudged two balls, allowing each to beat him overhead for extra base hits.

Diaz doubled in the first inning, and Alex Jorgensen tripled with one out in the second.

Kron left both runners on base, but it was clear: The Buffaloes (3-0 VOL, 9-3) smelled blood.

“We’re an aggressive team. We’re a ‘see ball, hit ball’ kind of team,” said Ballardo, whose team has outscored league opposition 24-0 in three games. “If we like it, we’ll attack. They came out hitting today.”

Kron didn’t have a 1-2-3 inning until the fifth. By then, though, it was 2-0.

The game got away from him in the third. Nicholas Lucchetti rallied from a 0-2 hole to draw a leadoff walk. After he was sacrificed to second, Diaz laced an RBI single back up the middle to make it 1-0.

Corn added the insurance score two batters later with a flair behind the third-base bag.

Ballardo praised the patience and plate discipline Lucchetti showed.

“He was in a 0-2 hole against one of the league’s top pitchers,” Ballardo said. “He fouled off a couple of pitches and drew the walk. We get the sacrifice bunt, and that’s what we preach all the time – moving the runners over. We executed all the way around. That was a good at-bat for (Lucchetti).”

Two runs felt like 10 to Corn, who struck out the side in the first inning and had nine Ks through four.

He used only 72 pitches.

“It kept me mentally strong,” Corn said of the two-run cushion, “knowing I had relief behind me like that.”

East Union (1-2, 7-7) broke up the no-hitter with back-to-back singles by Esquivel and Sam Robinson in the seventh. The hits came after Kron’s blast was collected on the warning track in right field.

“Those were the adjustments we should have made earlier in the game,” Triglia said. “We don’t lack confidence that we can come back from any deficit, but maybe that’s to our detriment sometimes.”

Y: Sunday’s rain and hail storm left the diamonds at Sierra and Lathrop high schools too soupy to host league games on Tuesday. The Timberwolves’ series with Weston Ranch will begin today at Sierra High and finish on Thursday at Weston Ranch.

Lathrop will host Sonora today. Spartans coach Randy Baltazar said Sonora will host either Thursday or Friday, depending on the weather forecasts in the Mother Lode.