Tyler Moss has returned in time for Sierra to make a run at a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth.
Pitching for the first time in over a month, the junior righty struck out seven in a combined three-hitter and a pivotal 6-1 victory over visiting Lathrop.
Moss scattered two hits and a walk over five dominant innings. After walking Richard Chavez in the opening frame, he retired the next 12 batters in order before Carlos Estrada broke up the streak with a two-out single in the fifth. Moss last pitched in a nonleague win against Gregori on March 15, but back and arm soreness has kept him from the mound since.
Hunter Peterson gave up a run and fanned two in his two-inning save.
“It felt good. It was fun pitching again,” Moss said. “I was just focusing on every pitch and throwing strikes.”
Sierra (8-4 Valley Oak League, 15-8-1 overall) remains in the hunt for a playoff berth. The Timberwolves are tied for third with Kimball and end the regular season with next week’s two-game set against second-place rival Manteca.
“We needed it,” Thomson said of Thursday’s win. “If we didn’t get it done today then next week would have been a lot tougher.”
That Sierra is in this position to begin with is admirable considering it has been without Moss, the team’s projected No. 1 starter. Marc Wilson has locked down the Tuesday starts, but the Timberwolves have gone with a committee of pitchers for Thursdays.
“Our guys have done a good job of keeping us in games,” Thomson said. “We’ve won three (league) games on Thursdays after we’ve been beaten on Tuesdays, and we started three different guys in those games.”
It was a pitcher’s duel for the first three innings Thursday, with Lathrop’s Preston Rizo keeping Sierra batters off balance early. But the Spartans (4-8, 9-13) trailed 2-0 going into the fourth without giving up a hit, as Sierra capitalized on four errors to score a run in each of the second and third innings.
“We give away a lot of runs,” Lathrop coach Randy Baltazar said. “We throw the ball away and that sparks some life for the other team. Now we’re fighting from behind and that’s something we cannot do because we don’t have the bats for it.”
Kyle Oden’s two-run double doubled Sierra’s lead in the fourth inning. Jake Pruitt doubled in the fifth and was driven home by Wilson’s two-bag shot to deep left center. Wilson plated the Timberwolves’ final run on a wild pitch.
Rizo was replaced after five innings, giving up six runs (four earned) on four hits, three walks and two hit batters while firing seven strikeouts. Austin Plunk pitched a perfect sixth in relief, striking out the side in the process.
Mikey Pereznegron accounted for two of Lathrop’s three hits and plated its lone run in the sixth.
Kimball 13, Manteca 3 (6)
Manteca (9-3, 15-6) needs some help next week to capture at least a share of the VOL title. The Buffaloes were tied with Oakdale for the top spot going into Thursday’s game that was dominated by host Kimball (8-4, 17-6-1), which seeks its first-ever playoff berth.
Kimball jumped out to a 5-0 first-inning lead and went on to rap out 16 hits. The game ended with a four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth. Zack Perugi went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and three runs to lead Kimball.
Nick Lucchetti and Nick Van Warmerdam provided some of Manteca’s few highlights, legging out back-to-back triples for a run in the fifth.
“They put pressure on us from the get-go and we couldn’t get anything going,” Manteca coach Gene Ballardo said. “Give them a lot of credit for coming ready to play. They had a good pitching performance (from Nathan Van Katwyk) as well as good offensive production.”
East Union 10, Weston Ranch 0 (5)
The Lancers (7-5, 13-10) remain in the mix for a playoff berth following this week’s sweep of Weston Ranch.
Justin Nieto twirled a mercy-shortened three hitter and collected eight strikeouts. Jesus Esquivel went 2 for 3 with a double to pace East Union. Trevor Huntoon (doubled), Chad Agostini and Andy Cavazos each added an RBI knock.
Marcus Vega Tatum went 2 for 2 with a double for the Cougars.
Mariposa 7, Ripon Christian 4
The Knights (12-2, 16-8-1) were denied the outright crown at Mariposa (13-1, 19-2) after the two clubs shared the title last season. Mariposa swept this week to annex the championship.
“It just didn’t go our way this week,” RC coach John DeVisser said. “Like Tuesday, today’s was a mistake-free game on both teams’ part, they just got the hits when they needed and we didn’t. It was a well-played game.”
Chaz Fane (2 for 3, four RBIs) and Bodie Vegely both hammered home runs for the Bears. Ripon Christian’s Dominic Nelson was 2 for 3 with a run. Michael Meyers and Jon Vander Molen each roped a double and plated a run.