The fifth inning has not been kind to Lathrop baseball this year, and Tuesday no different.
Clinging to a one-run lead against host Manteca, the Spartans gave up five runs in the bottom of the fifth as the Buffaloes came back for a 5-1 win and remained undefeated in Valley Oak league play.
“The fifth inning is our Achilles heal,” Lathrop coach Randy Baltazar said. “We just cannot seem to be able to put together a fifth inning. We can’t seem to be able to get out of that inning without giving up at least two runs.
“We have to stay away from the big innings. We talked to our pitchers about not letting the leadoff guy on with a walk, to make them earn the base.”
Alex Jorgensen, Nate Chivello and Nicholas Lucchetti all walked to start the fifth for Manteca (7-0 VOL, 12-4) to bring leadoff hitter Lucas Vaughn to the plate. Vaughn hit a high fly to shallow center, the wind blew the ball back onto the infield dirt and dropped for a single, plating Thomas Galdos who was running for Jorgenson.
“Right when I hit it I knew it was down because the infield was playing in,” Vaughn said. “All we wanted to do was get in a run so it worked out pretty good.”
A sacrifice fly by Dominick Pisano, an RBI single by Corn and multiple miscues by the Spartans (2-5, 6-10) led to the other four Buffaloes runs. Corn finished 2 for 3 with an RBI.
“In that fifth inning we got three walks and then we were able to put the ball in play with the infield in – a bloop single – and we will take that,” Manteca coach Gene Ballardo said. “But if they don’t throw the ball around in that fifth inning it could have easily been a different game. I thought Lathrop played very well today and we were lucky to come out with the victory.”
Had the infield not been playing in when Vaughn was at bat, his pop up could have been ruled an out due to the infield-fly rule.
“When that ball landed – it could have been infield fly, but who knows – that was a big break, and then we tried to get outs, but we started the throw the ball around,” Baltazar said. “You have to give credit to Manteca. They got runners on and made us play catch and we were unable to do that.”
Mikey Pereznegron doubled to start the game for the Spartans and came in on a single by Preston Rizo. Pereznegron finished 3 for 4 and Rizo was 2 for 3..
“Pereznegron has been solid all year,” Baltazar said. “But this is the ultimate team sport and everybody has to be able to pitch in.”
Corn went the distance for the Buffaloes and allowed seven hits while striking out nine. After Pereznegron scored, Lathrop did not get a runner past second base.
“I was a little rocky at the beginning,” Corn said. “But I was able to settle down.
“The wind affected me a little bit but it is something you just have to work through.”
Manteca 9, Lathrop 1
Ricky Flores was 4-for-4 for the Buffaloes and Ivan Gutierrez had two RBIs. Chase McKee and Ryan Harbeck combined to hold Lathrop to four hits.