By VINCE REMBULAT
STOCKTON — Weston Ranch High entered the final week of Valley Oak League play with the same goal as always: Compete and win.
The Cougars did that and more in Monday’s clash with East Union, erupting for nine runs in the third inning en route to a 13-3 victory in a five-inning affair.
“We came out with some fire,” said Weston Ranch coach David Hager, who praised his soon-to-be graduates during Senior Day — 11 seniors in all.
Leading the way for Weston Ranch (2-9 VOL, 10-15 overall) was Austin Cappas, who pitched four innings allowing just two hits, walking three, striking out five while earning the win. He also drove in four runs.
“We played well for the first three innings,” said Lancers coach Gene Ballardo. “After that, we let the game get behind us.”
Both teams will close out the season today at East Union.
“We want to end it with a win,” Ballardo said.
The Lancers (1-9, 9-14) got the scoring started against Weston Ranch in the second inning, putting up a pair of runs on Jaydin Alvarez’s RBI single through the hole. Andrew Mount and Zach White, who opened with a respective walk and single, both crossed the plate on the play.
In the third, Weston Ranch got one run back when Anthony Aguilar, who was hit by a pitch and raced to third on Anthony Faulk’s double, scored on a balk.
The Cougars cashed in on their opportunities in the fourth, with Carlos Drain leading off with a single and David Baca getting hit by a pitch.
Isaiah Maxie doubled, plating Drain, and Anthony Chavez delivered home Baca by drawing a walk with the bases loaded.
By the time the dust cleared, Weston Ranch erupted for nine runs on five hits, a pair of hit batsmen, two walks and an error while sending batters to the plate.
Faulk and Amier Bowen both had RBI singles while Cappas came through with a two-run hit.
“It was that bleeder (for a single) by Carlos that got us going,” Hager said.
The Lancers got one run back in the top of the fifth, making it 10-3.
Daniel Ruiz walked, swiped second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Braydin Abrew’s sacrifice fly.
Weston Ranch ended the game in its half of the frame. Chavez led off with a single and Aguilar followed by getting hit by a pitch. Faulk, who went 3 for 4, ripped an RBI single and Cappas had the close-out two-run double.
“We put some good swings on the ball and put together some great at bats,” said Hager, who is hoping that his team will again be ready in the finale at Agostini Field.
Central Catholic 3, Manteca 2
Manteca (6-5 VOL, 15-9 overall) clinched a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth despite a tough loss in Modesto.
Oakdale helped the Buffaloes’ cause by defeat Kimball, 5-0. It was a four-team race for three available berths — VOL champion Sierra already has its postseaosn reservation. Last week, Manteca swept its two-game set with Kimball, which trail the Buffaloes and Oakdale by a game.
Central Catholic (7-4, 13-11), now alone in second place, jumped ahead in the sixth inning when Mikey Duran tagged a two-out, two-run single. Manteca carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth. Tyler Van Dyk got the Raiders on board with a home run.
Alex Gouveia hit a solo homer for the Buffs, while Dylan Guice tripled and plated the other run. Isaiah Perez pitched five solid innings, giving up four hits and two walks while striking out two. Central Catholic’s Dalton Durossette went the distance for the win, pitching a three-hitter.
Ripon Christian 12, Denair 11
At Denair, the Knights (11-2, 16-6 overall) found themselves in danger of dropping out of a possible two-way share of the Southern League title on Monday.
They were up 11-0 at one point before the host Coyotes (6-7, 6-10) rallied for 11 unanswered to tie it. Ripon Christian jumped ahead for good in the top of the seventh. Declan Van Vuren went 4 for 5 with three RBIs, two runs and two doubles. Nolan Lingley finished 3 for 4 with three runs and a double. Will Gilbert crushed a solo homer and pitched four scoreless innings. Brock Nunes threw the final two innings and got the win.
Manteca 3, Central Catholic 2
Devon Garcia scored the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh, and relief pitcher Amrit Dehal worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom half to secure Manteca’s win.
Joel Gallo earlier highlighted the attack with a two-run homer. Quino Gurrola pitched the first five innings.
East Union 16, Weston Ranch 3
The Lancers dealt all the damage they needed in the opening inning, scoring five runs before erupting for six more in the second. The game ended after five.
Willie Segura led the onslaught, going 3 for 3 with two doubles, three runs and an RBI. Anthony Flores drove in four runs, while Ben Slaughter and Evan Jeffery plated three apiece. Winning pitcher John Perazzo struck out six in five innings, scattering five hits.