Two of the young arms of the Valley Oak League dueled it out on Monday.
In the end, it was Manteca High and freshman Ryan Ward surviving a rocky first inning against crosstown rival East Union featuring sophomore hurler Fernando Segura, grabbing the first of a crucial two-game set, 4-1.
“That first game is big,” said Manteca coach Neil MacDannald. “We have to reset for the next game, win or lose, especially this time of the year.”
Both teams came in tied for second in the Valley Oak League behind Oakdale. Manteca (9-4, 17-7) gained some separation from the rest of the pack, while East Union (8-5, 14-9) drops into a third-place tie with Sierra. Only the top three teams in league qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
“We had a great opportunity in that first inning and came away with one run,” East Union coach Dan Triglia said.
His Lancers loaded the bases to start off the game.
Daniel Marquez walked and was followed by Gyse Hulsebosch’s single up the middle. Brayden Hardcastle also walked to jam the bases.
Two batters later, Mason James drew a one-out walk, plating Marquez to give the Lancers a 1-0 lead.
The Buffaloes finally got their offense in gear in the third. Ward helped his cause with a lead-off single, scooting to second on a sacrifice.
After a base hit by Joel Olmos, Ward tied the game on Alex Gouveia’s RBI single.
Kyle Rachels plated Olmos with the go-ahead run, delivering a slow infield roller.
Ahead 2-1, Manteca added two more insurance runs in the fifth. Matthew Ender led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Gouveia’s RBI single.
The Buffaloes then loaded the bases on back-to-back singles by Rachels and Gino Campiotti. Isaac Maldonado’s sacrifice fly to center brought home Gouveia.
Offensively, Rachels and Gouveia went 2 for 3 with an RBI each.
As for Ward, he rebounded from his three-walk, one-hit first inning to retire 20 of the next 21 batters in order, including 14 in a row at one point. Hulsebosch, who was 2 for 3 at the plate, broke up the string.
Ward finished with a complete game two-hitter with 10 strikeouts. He was helped out by his defense, including shortstop Gouveia going deep in the hole for the grab and throwing a laser to the first for the putout.
That came as no surprise to MacDannald.
“He’s the best defensive player out there,” he said of his sophomore shortstop.
Segura went the distance for East Union.
“Fernando pitched well enough to win,” said Triglia.
He added: “We need to bounce back for the split on Wednesday.”
The Lancers will host the Buffaloes that day in the 4 p.m. rubber match.
Manteca 7, East Union 2
Rafael Diaz gave up two runs in the top of the first inning but dominated from there for Manteca, striking out five in a complete-game five-hitter.
Dylan Gross anchored the offense with a 3-for-4 effort and two doubles. Dominic Rea was 2 for 4 with an RBI. Dylan Guice contributed a to-run double.