In a Valley Oak League meeting that has tremendous impact on the playoff picture, the East Union Lancers held off a stubborn Manteca High squad 8-7, using Brett Riley in relief to close out the game’s final three outs Thursday at East Union.
Lancer starter Brock Swift held a talented Manteca lineup in check for the better part of five innings, but a walk followed by a base hit in the fifth would spell the end of his outing. Steven Gigli gave East Union one solid inning, before surrendering responsibility to Riley with bases loaded and the reigning VOL Offensive Player of the Year, Matt Burrows, strolling to the plate.
Riley drilled Burrows with his first pitch, making it a save situation with the score becoming 8-5. A dropped fly ball and a run scoring double play would pull the Buffaloes to within one, but Manteca would come no closer.
“You know, he’s our short relief guy, but we haven’t had to use short relief in awhile,” Lancer head coach Dan Triglia said. “So that was really some unexplored territory. We knew he had the stuff to get the job done, but I was more impressed with his mentality in that situation.
“Especially, when he hits the first guy and then a fly ball should have been caught.”
East Union closed the door on a game that the Lancers seemed adamant about winning. Manteca opened the game with leadoff hitter Gabe Rellamas hitting the game’s first pitch out of the park for a 1-0 lead, but the instant deficit only seemed to make Swift focused.
Swift only surrendered one other run in the fifth, before being pulled after the second batter of the sixth. The Buffaloes were limited in their scoring opportunities against Swift, managing to get a runner in scoring position only three times the remainder of his stint.
“To come out and have the first pitch of the ball game leave the yard and be able to bounce back for as long as he did was impressive,” Triglia said. “We would have liked to see him go longer for us innings wise, but his pitch count was getting up there so we decided to go with some other guys.
“He battled every single at bat, every single pitch and that is really just his makeup.”
Swift’s counterpart was not as impressive. Burrows toed the rubber for Manteca and found himself in trouble immediately. East Union pushed across three runs in the first and two more in the second, leaving Manteca with an uphill battle.
“We got close, but close wasn’t good enough today,” Manteca head coach Gene Ballardo said. “I felt for the first five innings we mentally checked out. A lot of errors, a lot of mental mistakes and that’s what cost us.
“I don’t know what it was, but we just didn’t get the job done today.”
Riley made key contributons from the plate too, going 2-for-4 and coming around to score twice for the Lancers. Justin Dias was 2-for-3 with a walk and Zac Carrillo was 2-for-3 with a huge two-run double to help East Union get things going in the first.
Michael Timmins had an RBI basehit in the fifth for Manteca and both Danny Gouveia and Mikey Matthews both collected hits as well.
The two clubs will bring their regular seasons to a close with their final series’. The Lancers will open a home-home series with the Sierra Timberwolves, while Manteca will begin a two game set with the Weston Ranch Cougars. Both clubs will be back on the diamond Wednesday at 4 p.m.