With five outs left to record a momentum-grabbing Valley Oak League win, the Manteca softball team self-destructed, allowing East Union to plate three runs on its way to a 4-3 come-from-behind win Wednesday at Northgate Park.
The Lancers hung tough through the game’s first five innings, trailing 2-1 going into their sixth inning at bat. The Buffaloes plated two runs and East Union had only managed a towering Kelsey Emerson solo shot for its 2-1 deficit.
All of that would change in the sixth when Kailee Nuding reached on an infield error. Emerson, with a home run in the second, was walked after going ahead 2-0 in the count. Sophomore Jordan Vinson was hit by a pitch and Gianna Gesler would tie it up 2-2 with a base hit. Her knock would set up the groundwork for freshman Tea Solario’s heroics.
Solario lined a two RBI single to give East Union a 4-2 lead they wouldn’t surrender.
“I try not to be too nervous because it takes away my focus,” Solario said. “So I just try to take all the pressure away and just do my best.
“It felt good to be able to help my team.”
Solario’s clutch-hit proved to be invaluable as the Buffaloes would not go quietly, scoring a run and getting the tying run in scoring position when Jillian Costa made an unassisted tag at second and throw to first for a game-ending double play.
“You have to play aggressive, but you can’t play aggressive now and then, you have to play aggressive for seven innings,” Manteca head coach Corey Navarro said. “I said this the other night, it has to be from the first pitch to the last pitch and it has to be that way every time. We have to believe we’re supposed to win this game.
“My hat goes off to East Union; those girls came through and did what they were supposed to do.”
With the rigorous VOL grind just getting underway it is difficult to assume that a team can use such an early win to propel its season. But with Sierra already suffering a setback, keeping things relatively close in the standings early just may prove to be essential.
“I told our girls that everybody is 1-1 except for Kimball and Oakdale and there are three playoff spots,” Lancers head coach Brian Goulart said. “If the season ended today you’d be in, so you better start paying attention. What they did tonight will make them practice harder and make you a better team for the rest of the season.
“Win or lose, our goal is to play like we did tonight.”
Solario had two hits for the Lancers and Gesler finished 2-for-3. Anissa Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with a run for Manteca, while captain Selena Gonzalez was 2-for-3. Freshman Celina Cooper also had two hits for the Buffaloes.
East Union 2, Manteca 0
Shelby Hart was 2-for-3 with a RBI triple and came home to score when Savina Brandi got down a perfect bunt for a suicide-squeeze play for another run.
Hailey Neves also collected a hit in the Lancers victory.