Oakdale catcher Bryce Kirk launched the first pitch of the ninth inning over the right-center field fence, and the visiting Mustangs held on in the bottom half to take a 1-0 win over Manteca in the Valley Oak League opener on Tuesday.
“Bryce did a great job,” Oakdale coach Nate Gregory said. “We were talking about adjustments throughout the game and he did a great job putting a good swing on a pitch.
“It was definitely exciting. They have a good young freshman (Ryan Ward) over there and he did a good job of keeping us off balance today. He had some moxy and our guys did a good job of pitching out of problems.”
Oakdale (1-0 VOL, 8-1 overall) went through four pitchers, and they bent but did not break. Out of 12 runners left on base the Buffaloes (0-1, 7-3) left eight in scoring position.
“There were a few missed opportunities, and when you play good teams you have to execute the little things,” Manteca coach Neil MacDannald said. “Like situational at-bats and making sure we get bunts down.
“But that was a good baseball game and if we’re going to give that kind of effort all season long I like our chances to play for a long time.”
Until Kirk went yard, Ward had limited the Mustangs to five hits and allowed just three runners to reach scoring position.
“Obviously, Ryan (Ward) gave us every chance to win and threw strikes and had command out there,” MacDannald said. “Our defense played really well behind him, but their guy (Vito Rudin) is tough.
“He hasn’t given up an earned run yet so we knew it was going to be a really tight game and I am really proud of the boys and their effort, so we will have to regroup and try and get a split down the road Thursday.”
Stellar defensive plays kept Manteca in the game. Left fielder Gerson Gomez fully extended in the fifth inning to rob Jordon Williams of an extra-base hit and ran down a towering fly ball off the bat of Nick Moore to end the sixth inning.
“I didn’t know if I had the first one but I was going hard,” Gomez said. “I did my best and gave it 100 percent.
“I knew I was going to get the second one because it was super high and running my fastest I knew I was going to get there.”
Buffaloes center fielder Joel Olmos got in on the defensive action with a gem of his own, chasing down Cullen Bearden’s deep fly ball to start the seventh inning, hauling it in while running toward the fence.
“I thought it was a regular ball right to me,” Olmos said. “But with the wind in this park it just kept going and luckily I made a play on it and kept us in the game.”
The Oakdale eighth ended on a bang-bang-double play when second baseman Kyle Rachels fielded a screaming line drive and tossed it to shortstop Alex Gouveia to double up Williams.
“That was a well-hit ball that found our glove and I’m not sure who in America does not get doubled off on that,” MacDannald said. “That’s just the game of baseball. We had a couple of balls that their center fielder made good plays on the previous inning.
“We take a tremendous amount of pride in our ability to make plays on defense, mainly routine plays but every once and a while if you are hustling you’re going to make some great plays.”
Stagg 12, Lathrop 7
STOCKTON — The host Delta Kings (3-4) broke it open with a five-run rally in the sixth, getting back-to-back RBI doubles from pinch-hitter Devin Landis and Julian Raya.
Stagg leadoff hitter Isaac Krietz went 3 for 4 with a walk and three runs and was a homer shy of hitting for the cycle.
Lathrop (3-4-1) staked a 3-1 lead in the first inning. Shawn Cummings also came up short of a cycle, finishing 3 for 4 with a double, triple and three runs. Estevon Salazar went 2 for 4 with two runs. Matt Julien (2 for 3, walk) and David Gonzales each drove in a pair of runs. David Lopez contributed a double and a run in the second inning.