Central Catholic found out firsthand last week that there is no quit in Manteca.
On Tuesday, the Raiders became the first team in the Valley Oak League to keep the Buffaloes from beating the count in a 9-3 win. The good news for Manteca (7-1, 15-5 overall) is that it remains two games ahead of three second-place teams, including Central Catholic (5-3, 11-9), with six to go.
“You want to put your best foot forward in every game regardless of who you’re playing and where you’re at in the standings,” Manteca coach Neil MacDannald said. “We’ve had some games where we made some early mistakes and we were able to come back from those mistakes. Today, for while, you thought maybe it was going to happen, but to their credit they shut the door on us.”
Central Catholic broke it open with a four-run fourth inning and led 6-0. Manteca didn’t get on board until the bottom of the fifth when Zach Chamberlain plated Alex Gouveia (leadoff single) with a fielder’s choice. The Buffaloes took advantage of four bases on balls and a hit batter, and Mitch Balmut and Tyler Graves-Kelso drew bases-loaded walks to slice the deficit in half.
The Buffaloes’ momentum was short-lived, as Central, sparked by Sam Mundt’s leadoff double, got all three runs back in the sixth.
The back end of this two-game set rained out last Friday. In the series opener, Manteca battled back from an early 4-0 hole before roaring back for an 11-8 victory.
“We knew what we were facing and that’s even better for us, a team that’s not going to stop or quit and they’ve proven it and taken one away from us,” Central Catholic coach Danny Ayala said. “We knew we had to compete for seven (innings) and I’m very proud of our guys. They went out and did it.”
Mundt was a big reason why. The 6-foot-6, Utah-bound righty held the Buffaloes to just two hits over six innings and struck out seven. He did have to overcome five walks and two hit batters but came through with a huge shutdown inning in the bottom of the sixth, retiring the three batters he faced in order. Nathan Clark walked two and struck out the side in the seventh for the save.
“That’s a really good outing for him,” Ayala said of Mundt. “Pitch to pitch, we had a game plan for him and he executed very well even when he started laboring in those middle innings. He really grinded it out. He was able to rebound.”
The Raiders were aided by four errors, three of them on mishandled bunts, and eight walks but made much of their breaks with the bats. They finished with 12 hits and left runners in scoring position in every inning but the fifth. Trey Nichols finished 3 for 4 with a walk, a run and two RBIs to lead the way.
“If you stack up all the teams player for player, that’s the most talented team in the league right there,” MacDannald said. “That pitcher is the real deal and he had his ‘A’ game going against us. Those guys can all swing the heck out of the bat.
“Baseball is a game where if you work hard and do things right it’s going to work out for you, and today we gave them too much.”
Jake Menasco broke up Mundt’s no-hit bid with a single up the middle in the third. The Buffaloes otherwise couldn’t get much going without their top bat in the lineup. Senior centerfielder Ronaldo Tijero, batting a team-best .385 with 23 RBIs on the season, did not play after he was ejected for arguing with an umpire at Central Catholic last week.
“I’m not a guy who is going to make excuses; you gotta go with what you got,” MacDannald said. “One of the better players in our league, obviously, but it’s no excuse. We still had our chances. We still have a good enough team to get things done we just didn’t quite do it.”
Manteca returns to action today against visiting Lathrop.