Alex Murrietta laced a two-out, two-RBI single in the top of the seventh inning Thursday to bust the game open for Manteca on the way to a 5-0 Valley Oak League win at East Union’s Agostini Field.
The Buffaloes (3-1 VOL, 7-7 overall) earned a series split after dropping Tuesday’s contest 5-2.
With Manteca leading 2-0 going into the seventh, leadoff batter Rex Watson bunted his way on, sending James Dennis to second with no out. A pair of flyouts brought cleanup batter Zach Todd to the plate and Todd was hit, loading the bases for Murrietta (2 for 3, two RBI) who sent the ball up the middle to score Watson and Dennis.
Running for Todd, Lucas Krenz scored on a single by Emiliano Cruz for the final run of the game.
“I was just trying to get the ball on the ground for an RBI,” Murietta said. “I was looking for an outside pitch, but I saw the ball in and got a good pull on it for two RBIs.”
Dylan DePrater went the distance on the hill for Manteca, striking out eight and allowing four hits with no walks.
“I just had to put my trust in the defense, filled up the zone and made the umpire call them or let the defense do its job,” DePrater said. “My arm felt pretty good and I was maybe throwing a little harder than normal.
“After I walked the first batter, I was thinking of not falling off the mound and staying straight line to the catcher.”
DePrater walked Anthony Flores to start the game. Jacob Toste (double) sacrificed Flores to second on a bunt and Mateo Guevara reached on an error, giving the Lancers (2-2, 6-7) runners at first and second with one out.
Flores and Guevara moved up 90 feet each on a double steal, but that was as close as East Union would get. DePrater induced a pair of flyouts and retired 17 of the next 19 batters, including striking out the side in order in the fifth inning.
“We were in an automatic pressure situation, something we have been working on in practice” coach Mark Ruiz said. “We have worked on not backing up walks with errors or errors with walks. I thought we handled it well and got out of that jam situation in the first inning.
“Dylan did a great job. He kept us in the game the entire time. He threw two pitches for strikes and kept pounding the zone and kept them off balance. That’s all we can ask for from him. And we kind of clicked today offensively, hitting some balls hard and we even had a couple of hard-hit outs as well. We have been preaching about applying pressure to the other team’s defense the entire time and I am proud that we finally did that today.”
Toste had a one-out double for East Union in the sixth and the Lancers had runners at the corners with one out in the seventh, but DePrater got a strikeout and a flyout to end the game.
“I think our guys were content with the win that they had on Tuesday,” Lancers coach Kris Hensley said. “And I think they just assumed that they would show up today and Manteca wasn’t going to want to play. Just like I told our guys after we lost to Oakdale, in the VOL you can’t get swept and we needed to come out and fight and Manteca was going to do the same thing we did, and maybe they didn’t believe me.
“We do have a young team and I think we are going to have some ups and downs with growing pains this year in learning how to play varsity baseball. The energy was OK defensively. I thought Zach (Grabowski) and Dylan (Lee) threw well enough for us to win today, but offensively we were more interested in making excuses than going out there and battling, and you can’t do that. That was the difference in the game – offensively we were very flat.”
Landon Chamberlain and Carson Smith were both 2 for 4 with an RBI for the Buffaloes.
Manteca travels to Ceres to face Central Valley on Monday, and the Lancers go across town to Sierra on Tuesday with both games starting at 4 p.m.