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Mantecas bats come alive against Lathrop
Peck contributes 13-strikeout, two-hit gem
Lathrop High shortstop Mikey Pereznegron winds up for the throw to first on a double-play attempt after forcing Manteca’s Matt Burrows out at second base Wednesday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
Mash with runners in scoring position, throw strikes and execute on defense — it’s baseball’s recipe for success.

Highlighted by a sterling pitching performance from Kevin Peck, the Manteca High baseball team hit the trifecta in Wednesday’s “home” game at Lathrop High, cruising 8-0 for its sixth straight victory.

This year’s Manteca-Lathrop series, which resumes Friday, will be played at Lathrop. Lathrop’s field was unplayable last year, so the two-game set took place at Manteca.

It was the first game in eight days for the Buffaloes (2-0 Valley Oak League, 8-4 overall), who had road game with Sonora postponed last week due to rain.

“We were real anxious,” said leadoff hitter Zach Gase, one of three Buffaloes to swat two multiple-base hits. “We just kept putting in work in practice and came out ready to go.”

The extra practice time paid dividends.

Of Manteca’s eight base hits, six went for multiple bases. Gase went 2 for 2 with a double, a triple, a walk and two runs. Daniel Miramontes also belted a double and a triple, finishing 2 for 3 with two runs and two more driven in. Not to be outdone, No. 7 hitter Matt Mueller legged out two RBI triples while also going 2 for 3.

The Buffaloes scored twice in each of the first and third innings and broke it open with four in the fourth.

“We didn’t have a week off,” said Manteca coach Gene Ballardo. “We may have not had a game in a week, but we still practiced every day and concentrated a lot on hitting this past week because we felt that we could have hit a little better in our past few games.

“It was good to see some hard work pay off, and hopefully that can continue.”

While surely appreciated, Manteca provided its pitcher with more than enough run support. His economical two-hitter included 13 strikeouts and two walks on just 75 pitches while backed by perfect defense.

Peck’s confidence grew as the game wore on, as he began mixing in his breaking ball with more frequency to supplement an accurate fastball. He retired 14 of Lathrop’s last 15 batters and fanned nine of them.

Mikey Pereznegron singled to left in the first inning for the Spartans (0-2, 2-6-1), and Oscar Calix beat out the throw for an infield knock in the second.

“I felt on fire,” Peck said. “We came out ready to hit today and that made a big difference. That helped a lot.”

For Lathrop, it was two backwards after taking a huge step forward on Tuesday, when it led Sierra through four innings before falling, 6-4. What didn’t help the Spartans’ cause Wednesday was that Calix, their pitching ace, was unavailable after starting from the mound against Sierra.

Gabe Castellanos walked five and threw 73 pitches in his three-inning start. Manteca also capitalized on three errors, which led to three unearned runs. One bright spot was submariner Divoe Santos, who threw perfect fifth and sixth innings in relief.

“We came out with a lot of energy versus Sierra and today we wanted to bring the same energy, but for some reason it wasn’t there today and it showed,” Lathrop coach Randy Baltazar said.

To contact Jonamar Jacinto, email, or call (209) 249-3538.