There was a lot to cheer about for home-team Sierra and its 10-2 thumping of Oakdale on Thursday that significantly tightened up the Valley Oak League race, and despite all the grandiose statistics one item stood out by itself — the win was No. 600 for Jack Thomson, the Timberwolves’ only coach in their 23-year history.
“It was gratifying,” Thomson said. “Forty-one years of coaching is a long time. There was a little too much attention about it, but it was nice to win it at home.”
Never anxious to talk about himself, Thomson — who started his coaching career across town at Manteca High — was happy to break down the importance of the win that drew Sierra (6-3 VOL, 11-8 overall) within half a game of Oakdale (7-3, 12-10) in third place for the final VOL playoff slot and half a game ahead of fourth-place Manteca, which the Timberwolves swept last week.
“It was a game we needed to win,” Thomson said. “We knew going into the week that if we split with Oakdale we would be right there so when they won at home it was important for us to win here.”
While the rest of his team was busy racking up 14 hits and taking advantage of five Oakdale errors, Slyder Blythe went the distance on the mound and was one pitch away from a complete-game shutout, giving up a two-run home run to Jacob Solorio in the fourth inning.
Blyth yielded five hits and struck out four, walking none. Other than the two-run homer, no Mustangs base runner reached second base. After giving up the home run, Blyth retired nine in row and 11 of the final 12 batters he faced.
“This feels great,” Blythe said of his complete-game win. “But to have a purpose behind it is even better. To celebrate Coach T’s 600 wins and all he has done for Sierra and the city of Manteca is just great.”
The Oakdale third and fifth innings ended the same way — with screaming line drives into the glove of Timberwolves third baseman David Reyes.
“All I can do is work with it,” Reyes said. “I do what I have to do to stay in front of the ball.”
Sierra’s Jesse Ortiz-Martinez (3 for 5, three RBI, two runs) singled in his first three trips to the plate.
“I was seeing the ball good,” Ortiz-Martinez said. “I was getting the pitches I liked and I tried to shorten up and put bat on the ball like coach said.”
Blythe (RBI, run), Chase Sperbeck (double, two runs) and Jared Bagley (run) were all 2 for 4 for the Timberwolves. Jacob Peterson (run) doubled and J.T. Ortiz-Martinez drew three walks, scored twice and had an RBI and a single.
Sierra has five games remaining, including a makeup game at Central Catholic of Modesto on Saturday followed by home-and-home series with East Union and Weston Ranch the following two weeks.