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Wide-open race in Division-IV playoffs
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With the final home-home series to play in Valley Oak League action, there was no clear-cut team clutching to the league title.

Now with the 2011 Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Championships kicking off Monday every team has a shot.

The Manteca Buffaloes (16-8) will be the first area team to get their second season underway, hosting the River City Raiders Monday for the opportunity to play Western Athletic Conference champion Central Catholic Thursday at 4 p.m. The loser of the Manteca-River City will bring its season to a halt, while the winner will have to go through a pitching staff with a sub-2.00 ERA.

The East Union Lancers avoided the play-in game with their VOL No. 2 seed. The Lancers will begin the postseason Thursday with a matchup against the Galt High Warriors at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi. East Union (15-6) will take on the Sierra Valley Conference’s No. 2 seed for a shot at the winner of the Manteca or River City-Central Catholic game.

Central Catholic of Modesto is a new edition to the field but should be considered a favorite. Last year the Raiders had their string of 10 straight section championships (seven in Division V) snapped by Escalon. On Wednesday they clinched their 15th straight conference title.

Defending Division-IV champion Oakdale will open tournament play against former VOL foe Ceres, with a win setting up a best 2-out-of-3 series with the Vista del Lago-Los Banos contest. The winners of the semifinal matchups will meet for the section title Monday, May 30.

Ripon High finds itself back in the postseason under the guidance of head coach Mitchell Evans. The Indians (13-9-2) will open the postseason with 16-6 Capital Christian. The Golden Empire League’s No. 2 seed will do battle with the Trans Valley League’s runner-up squad.

With questionable weather in the forecast, Ripon may have an opportunity to host the two schools’ opening matchup if the Tony Zupo Field in Lodi is not sustaining the necessary drainage. A home game would be favorable for the Indians, who outscored their opponents 28-3 in their final two home games.