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Noah Navarro’s game-winning hit lifts Manteca over Sierra
Nate Slikker plates winning run after hitting triple, pitching 8 innings
Sierra-Manteca baseball
Nate Slikker begins to celebrate with the rest of the Buffaloes after plating the game-winning run for Manteca on Noah Navarro’s single in the bottom of the eighth inning Monday against Sierra. - photo by Wayne Thallander

Nate Slikker worked efficiently enough to pitch eighth innings for Manteca on Monday and used his bat and legs to get the decision in the 4-3 win over visiting Sierra.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth, the freshman worked the count full, fouled off a pitch and swung at the next offering from reliever Ryan McIntyre, connecting for a deep fly that landed in the left-center field gap for a triple.

Sierra-Manteca baseball
Manteca third baseman Noah Navarro throws to first base against Sierra.
Sophomore Noah Navarro ended the game on the next at-bat chopping a single past Sierra third baseman Druw Navarro and shortstop Angel Valdez.

“I had faith in him (Noah Navarro) all the way, I just had to make sure it got through the infield (before running to home plate) to be safe,” Slikker said. “Once it got through, I was clapping my hands and getting ready to go run at Noah. I got so excited I almost forgot to touch home plate.”

Navarro made up for his previous plate appearance. Facing Sierra ace Wyatt Bauer in the fifth with two outs and two runners on base, he worked ahead in the count 2-0 but got jammed on the next pitch and grounded out to the pitcher.

Navarro again had a 2-0 count in the eighth. This time, he made solid enough contact to get it through the infield with two big bounces.

“I was just calm,” he said. “I knew had to do my job and get Nate in. I knew I could do it; I’ve done this in practice a thousand times. I was confident in myself.

“My approach was to go to the opposite field, but he threw me an inside pitch and I loaded up on it on time and was able to get to it.”

It was a deserved result for Slikker, who needed just 95 pitches to get through eight innings. He scattered six hits, struck out four, walked none, and hit one, and only one of the three runs given up were was earned. At the plate, he finished 2 for 3 and capped the Buffaloes’ three-run rally in the first inning with a sacrifice fly.

“Nate Slikker came up clutch for us all game long,” Manteca coach Mark Ruiz said. “Threw the ball very well today and obviously got the big hit there at the end. We have to clean up some things on the defensive end, but overall we executed the way we wanted to.”

San Diego signee Rex Watson got Manteca (7-2 Valley Oak League, 17-3-1 overall) rolling at the outset, leading off with a double. He scored on Chris Chavez’s fielder’s choice, and Preston Smith followed with an RBI single.

The Timberwolves (4-6, 11-9) clawed their way back in the third and fourth innings, scoring all of the runs with two outs. Rudy Barney drilled a double in the third inning and was driven in by Troy Morrow’s single up the middle.

Manteca had chances to get out of the fourth inning unscathed after getting the second out with a tag on the lead runner at third base. Angel Valdez scored on a throwing error, and Nikko Camarena knocked in Travis Boyd — he was earlier hit by a pitch — with a sharp single to left for the equalizer.
“Hard to start in a hole down 3-0,” Sierra coach Travis Thomson said. “Good teams play really well early in the game and really well late in the game, and we just didn’t do that.

“Good for these boys climbing back into the game down 3-0. They grinded out three runs to tie it up, and I thought the at-bats got better as the game went on.”

Manteca’s defense was otherwise solid behind Slikker, ending a threat in the second with a 6-3-5 double play. Sierra’s eighth inning was cut short with Smith, the Manteca catcher, caught a runner stealing second base.

“It’s a team sport, it’s not just me up there,” Slikker said. “I was lucky enough to get people out early in the count; my pitch wasn’t too high. I was just putting my faith in them, and they were making plays for me.”

Sierra-Manteca baseball
Sierra’s Wyatt Bauer delivers a pitch at Manteca.
Sierra-Manteca baseball
Sierra’s Wyatt Bauer delivers a pitch at Manteca.

Bauer did well to keep Sierra in it after the spotty first inning. He was replaced after the seventh inning, finishing with eight strikeouts while giving up two earned runs on five hits, three walks and one hit batter.

Manteca had a chance to blow it open in the fourth inning when it loaded the bases with no outs. Bauer induced a 3-2-4 double play and a line drive out to third base.

“He was definitely getting better as the game went on,” Thomson said. “He got us out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam, and that’s huge. He can pitch, and he gave us chance to win the game today. We just didn’t get it done.

“I think their desire to win the game was more than our desire to win the game. You can see it on their body language. Hats off to (Slikker) — you can tell he really wanted to win the game.”

Sierra will look to even the best-of-three series Wednesday at home.