TRACY — The Manteca High softball team was three outs away from charging into its Valley Oak League opener with a big win against a quality opponent.
The Buffaloes could only get one out and consequently suffered a heartbreaking 7-5 defeat to Tracy High Monday.
In the bottom of the seventh, sophomore slugger Jazmin Clarke crushed a towering two-run homer to punctuate the Bulldogs’ come-from-behind victory at Tracy Sports Complex. Tracy (4-1) trailed 5-2 going into the sixth.
“Tracy played from the first pitch to the last,” Manteca coach Corey Navarro said. “This was a good learning experience for us. We have a young team, and we played like a young team. In the fourth and fifth innings we got into a comfort zone a little bit.
“We thought we had it and that cost us.”
The meltdown began in the sixth inning when the Buffaloes attempted to turn a double play. An overthrow allowed Tracy to score the first of its two runs in the frame.
Leadoff hitter Ellie Fisher drew a walk to start Tracy’s half of the seventh, and she was driven in by Angela Mariani.
That set up Clarke’s colossal blast. She had two strikes against her when she connected on Peyton Rose’s low-and-out changeup.
“It was as high as it was deep,” Navarro said of the home run.
Manteca (5-3) out-hit the Bulldogs 9-3 but committed three errors, issued three walks and hit three batters with pitches.
“When you have that many base runners and extra outs, all it takes is one hit,” Navarro said.
His Buffaloes proved the point at the start of the game. Nicole Magnuson drew a walk, and cleanup hitter Selena Gonzalez was drilled by a pitch to give Manteca two base runners with two outs.
That was when freshman Celina Cooper belted an RBI single up the middle to break the ice. She and Gonzalez advanced on the relay throw to the plate on the play, and Gonzalez later plated the second run on a passed ball.
Manteca was paced by its two freshman, Cooper and Annissa Gonzalez, who each went 2-for-4. Cooper drove in two runs and plated another. Rose, a sophomore, was 2-for-3. Jessica Munoz legged out a triple and scored, and Monique Colunga added an RBI.
The VOL season begins today with Manteca playing host to Sonora. The Buffaloes will play a third game in as many days Wednesday at Northgate Park Complex, where crosstown foe East Union awaits.
“We’re looking forward to starting league,” Navarro said. “We’re going to be fine. I have a lot of confidence in this team; I think we can go a long ways. We just have to get the freshman and sophomore jitters out.”