Ronaldo Tijero slugged a towering double to drive in Manteca’s first run of the game and later prevented Oakdale from expanding its lead with an astounding unassisted double play from the outfield in a Valley Oak League dogfight between contending clubs Tuesday.
So it was only fitting that the senior ended the Buffaloes’ wacky come-from-behind rally in the bottom of the seventh.
Down three runs to start the inning, Manteca scored three times on bases-loaded walks and won 5-4 on Tijero’s infield hit to shortstop Sean Gingerich, who ranged to his right and dove to stop the groundball. Gingerich didn’t have a chance to attempt a throw, as the speedy Tijero (2 for 4) stomped on the first-base bag while driving in Zach Chamberlain before getting mobbed by teammates on the infield dirt.
“I was just thinking that if I get up I have to make something happen,” Tijero said. “I’m a leader on this team and we have a lot of young players who look up to me, so I had to make it happen.
“I saw that he went to the right a little bit and I thought, ‘That’s game.’”
All of Manteca’s runs in the final inning were unearned after Oakdale second baseman Blake Maddock dropped Alex Gouveia’s pop fly to shallow right field on what would have been the last out of the game. The Buffaloes (1-0 VOL, 7-3 overall) made it hurt, taking advantage of consecutive walks from pinch-hitter Tyler Miloslavich, Chamberlain, Jake Menasco and Mitch Balmut (1 for 2, two walks, run, RBI) before Tijero — the ninth batter of the inning — closed the show. Balmut’s tying RBI came after working the count full.
For Oakdale (0-1, 6-4), it was a wasted pitching gem from hard-throwing southpaw Austin Manning, who struck out 13 and gave up three hits in six-plus innings. He showed signs of wear late, walking three batters in the final two innings before getting replaced by Ryan Poff (two walks, strikeout) and Tanner Emes (two walks, hit).
“We made a couple of mistakes that put (Oakdale) up, but to their credit they didn’t let it get them down,” Manteca coach Neil MacDannald said. “They played catch after the mistakes, fought in the end and found a way to get it done.”
Manning was perfect through three innings before Balmut hit a one-out double to left in the fourth. He was then driven in by Tijero’s two-bagger to tie it at 1-1 as Oakdale center fielder Ben Solorio was unable to make the tough over-the-shoulder catch.
The Mustangs answered with three runs in the fourth and were aided by two throwing errors from Manteca. Although the Buffaloes finished with three errors they also had big-time defensive plays that kept them in the game.
Catcher Sam Rohovit caught two base runners stealing second and would gunned down a third had it not been mishandled on the receiving end.
Then there’s Tijero’s heave from centerfield in the sixth when Oakdale had Bryce Kirk and Gingerich (2 for 3, run) in scoring position with one out. Tijero caught Tyler Hall’s deep fly for the second out and threw out Kirk at the plate to end the threat.
“You never know when that one play turns into the game-saving play,” MacDannald said. “A 4-1 (deficit) is an uphill battle, but 5-1 can seem even more insurmountable.
“This is (Tijero’s) first time being an outfielder and he’s been an infielder his entire life, so he’s been real receptive of coaching and getting better defensively. Getting the ball out quickly in a situation like that is a difference between out and safe.”
Manteca’s Devin Sullivan faced one pitcher in relief for the win. Menasco was steady as usual in the start, giving up six hits and two walks while striking out one in 6 2/3 innings.
Manteca will go for the sweep today at Oakdale.
“This gives us a little head start on the season,” Tijero said. “That win does something. It shows us that we can do it, that we can hang with any team.”
Ripon 2, Hughson 0
HUGHSON — Jack Mayer struck out nine and walked two in 6 2/3 innings, and sophomore Eric Jacquez got the final out for the save as the Indians (1-0, 7-2) knocked off the reining TVL champion.
Mayer, who scattered six hits, came up with a RBI knock of his own. Matt DeDonatis legged out a triple and plated a run. The rematch is on Thursday at Ripon.
Weston Ranch 9, Edison 2
STOCKTON — Manuel Rubio came up a homer shy of hitting for the cycle in a nonleague tilt, finishing 4 for 5 with three runs scored and two driven in. He was also the winning pitcher.
Larry Martinez added a two-run single, Josh Dilg roped two knocks including a double and James Peavey contributed an RBI single in the onslaught.
Weston Ranch (8-1) ends the two-game set at Edison today.
East Union 5,
Central Catholic 1
MODESTO — Anthony Contreras struck out six and walked two in a three-hit effort for East Union.
Daniel Ruiz and Andrew Mount each had two hits and two RBIs, and Asiah Scott chipped in with an RBI double.