Manteca High’s baseball team achieved what has been a rarity in the Valley Oak League these days.
On Friday, the Buffaloes completed a two-game sweep of visiting Lathrop, 11-3. With many of the VOL’s two-game sets being split, a sweep against any club could be of help by the end of the season.
So far, it’s an Oakdale-and-everybody-else race with the Mustangs improving to 8-0 in league after Friday’s 12-2 shelling of Sierra. Oakdale plays host to Manteca (5-3, 11-6 overall) next Wednesday.
With Lathrop (2-5, 8-8) also in the mix for one of three Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths, Manteca holds a tiebreaking advantage over the Spartans should it become necessary.
“It’s big to get the sweep,” Manteca coach Gene Ballardo said. “This year there is so much parity in the league that you can get beaten on any day. I stressed that to the kids and I thought they did an excellent job of coming in focused this whole week.
“We can’t let up. We have to keep pushing and at the end of the season wherever the cards lie they lie.”
Manteca was down 2-1 in the early going. Preston Rizo and Ernie Garcia led off the top of the third with back-to-back singles. Rizo scored on a wild pitch, and Garcia was driven home by Mikey Pereznegron’s sacrifice fly.
The Buffaloes were quick to respond. They batted around the lineup in the bottom half for six runs on five hits. Freshman Dominic Pisano ignited the rally with a one-out double. Jacob Corn and Buddy Reeder each followed with an RBI single, and Danny Gouveia rapped a back-breaking three-run double to deep left.
“That gave them some spark, and since then it was an uphill climb for us,” Lathrop coach Randy Baltazar said.
Pisano finished 3 for 3 with three runs and an RBI. Rizo went 2 for 3 with an RBI double in the sixth to lead Lathrop.
“We’ve been working a lot on our hitting lately and we saw the dividends today,” Ballardo said. “It was good to see us put the ball in play like that, especially against their ace.”
Pereznegron threw the first 4 2/3 innings for the Spartans and struggled with his command early. He walked three batters in the first inning but was able to escape down just 1-0. He ended up walking seven and scattering seven hits.
Manteca went with an all-lefty pitching committee. Corn had seven strikeouts and gave up two runs in five innings. Pisano and Jeremy Vaughn tossed an inning apiece to contribute to the combined five-hitter.
Lathrop committed five errors, but only two of Manteca’s runs were unearned.
“I’m proud of the boys regardless of the turnout,” Baltazar said. “With a little fine tuning the boys will be fine. We can’t give extra bases to a good ball club like Manteca, otherwise they will capitalize on our mistakes.
Lathrop heads to Sonora Monday for a makeup game before locking up with rival Weston Ranch for a pivotal series.