A two-out error in the first inning led to three additional runs for Manteca, and visiting Sierra was unable to close that gap and lost 4-2 in Valley Oak League baseball action on Friday.
The league-leading Buffaloes (6-0 VOL, 14-4 overall) earned a series sweep of the defending champion,
“All year long we have only put up more than one run in the first inning two or three times,” Manteca coach Neil MacDannald said. “That was something we were trying to focus on, albeit with some help from them.
“But it felt nice to bat nine guys and get some runs across early. That lets our guy (pitcher Jake Menasco) have some confidence and pitch with a lead early. And aside from one hiccup we played really good defense. When you beat a team like that any time you have to feel proud.”
Kyle Rachels had key plays at the plate and in the field for the Buffaloes. In the first inning Rachels grounded out to second but in doing so plated Menasco from third for a 1-0 lead.
The sixth inning belonged defensively to Rachels. With Nick Oseguera on first Rachels grabbed a grounder up the middle off the bat of Anthony Arredondo and flipped it to Alex Gouveia, who tagged second and then got the ball to first for the double play.
“I was playing up the middle so the ball came right to me,” Rachels said. “It took a funky hop, but that is what we do every day at practice.”
Tanner Peterson came up next and drilled a line drive up the middle. Somehow, Rachels was able to snag it for the third out of the frame.
“Off the bat it looked like it was hit a lot harder,” Rachels said of Peterson’s line drive. “And when I got closer to it I just had to drive for it.
Menasco started the Manteca first with a single than snuck between first and second. Mitch Balmut got down a sacrifice bunt to get Menasco to second and he took third on a wild pitch before coming home on Rachels’ groundout.
Menasco did not get a strikeout until the seventh inning and gave up seven hits, allowing his defense to work behind him.
“I just tried to get that first pitch in,” Menasco said. “My defense was amazing especially when Kyle (Rachels) made that double play.
Oseguera reached on a fielder’s choice in the fourth inning and took s third on Arredondo’s double. Oseguera came in on a single by Tanner Peterson and Scott Teicheira plated Arredondo on a sacrifice fly for all the runs for the Timberwolves (3-3, 10-5).
“We just didn’t play well early,” Sierra coach Jack Thomson said. “Good teams play well early and we didn’t. I thought after the first inning J.P. (Timberwolves pitcher Jacob Peterson) did a great job and I thought Menasco did a great job, but we never adjusted to his velocity.
“We kept lifting the ball in the air or beating it into the ground on the left side. We made a little bit of an adjustment the one inning and then after that it was back to dead-pull mode and when we do that he will beat us every time.”