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Right man, right spot for surging Buffs
Mantecas Jeremy Vaughn makes a throw during a crosstown baseball game at East Union on Friday afternoon. - photo by JOHN-JOEL GRIFFITHS

The East Union baseball team struggled to deliver the finishing blow on Friday evening.

When given the chance, Manteca’s Ezekiel Diaz wouldn’t make the same mistake, delivering Manteca a 5-3 victory.

Diaz doubled into the gap in right-center field to plate the eventual game-winning runs in the top of the 12 inning, bringing to close another classic chapter in this storied crosstown rivalry.

Diaz produced three hits, none bigger than his two-run knock beneath a fast-fading sun.

“That guy, he puts in a lot of work every day,” Manteca coach Gene Ballardo said. “The kid’s one of our silent leaders.

“Right man, right spot – you bet. It worked out for him and I’m happy he came through.”

Manteca is now 4-0 in Valley Oak League play and 10-3 overall, three games clear of the Lancers (1-3, 7-8).

“We’re keeping it all in perspective,” Ballardo said. “The season is so young; league is so young. It’s only been four games. We can’t lose our focus. We face another one of the league’s best on Tuesday in (Sonora’s Ryan) Stevenson, so there are no breaks.”

East Union lurched out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning on a Jordan Kron RBI single and two errors, but it was hard times the rest of the way.

Jeremy Vaughn came on in the third inning for Manteca, tossing eight scoreless innings. He eventually turned the ball over to Wednesday’s hero, junior ace Jake Corn, who went the rest of the way.

Corn earned both wins in the series.

“Jake Corn told me he could go two innings,” Ballardo said. “He came in and closed it down with his excellent pitching. We really needed him at that time.”

The Lancers could learn a thing or two about seizing opportunity from Diaz, Manteca’s soft-spoken middle infielder.

East Union appeared to have a series split in hand three times in extra innings. Yet each time, Manteca  wiggled free.

The Lancers had runners in scoring position in the eighth, 10th and 11th. In the 11th, Corn walked Kron and plunked the next two batters to load the bases with two outs. However, he escaped by striking out Jacob Danhoff.

Kron went 3 for 4 with two doubles for the Lancers, while Danhoff was 2 for 5.

Diaz didn’t act alone in the 12th. The two-out rally began with No. 9 hitter Nathan Chivello, who drew a walk. Lucas Vaughn followed with double, putting runners on second and third for Diaz.

The junior continued his torrid pace at the plate, roping his second double of the series.

“That never happens if (Chivello) doesn’t draw that walk,” Ballardo said. “Him getting on at the No. 9 spot turns the lineup over.”

Lathrop 4, Sonora 0

Preston Rizo struck out 14 en route to a complete  game shutout. Rizo allowed just three hits and one walk.

“Preston was dominant from the first pitch to his last,” Lathrop coach Randy Baltazar said. “It’s the best performance I’ve seen him pitch in a while.”

Michael Pereznegron went 2 for 4 with a double and drove in one, while Andrew Gaynor was 2 for 3. Carlos Estrada also had an RBI for the Spartans, who begin a home-and-home series with East Union next week.

Lathrop struck for three runs in the second inning and one in the fourth.

Sierra 6, Weston Ranch 0

Weston Ranch head coach Ron Wayman can see the want and desire in his ball club. Now if only that would translate into wins.

The Cougars (2-11) fell to 0-4 in Valley Oak League play with its fourth consecutive shutout loss. The Cougars committed three errors, including two in a four-run fourth inning for Sierra.

Blake Sundquist went the distance for the Timberwolves (3-1, 9-6-1), giving up five hits in seven innings.

Makana Ward doubled and drove in three runs.

Ripon Christian Tournament

Ripon Christian showcased its versatility in winning its Easter break tournament.

The Knights blanked Modesto Christian in the morning game, creating havoc with its speed.

In the final, Ripon Christian overwhelmed Millennium for a second time in tournament play with its small ball. The game was called after six innings with the Knights ahead 13-3.

“I was impressed that we could find two different ways to win ball games against two different teams,” Ripon Christian coach John De Visser said.

Ripon Christian had four players named to the all-tournament team, including MVP Josh English.

Chris Saenz, Dominic Nelson and Travis Vander Molen were also named to the all-tournament team.