By JOHN-JOEL GRIFFITHS
Central Catholic’s hard-hitting offense tallied up 215 runs coming into Saturday’s ball game against Manteca at Lodi’s Tony Zupo Field.
The Raiders’ bats came alive during Game 1 of a best-of-three Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal series, knocking off the Buffaloes, 12-6.
Manteca (10-4 VOL, 17-8 overall) will now face elimination on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Zupo Field.
“They’re ready to go, and I think their spirits are up,” Manteca head coach Gene Ballardo said. “If you win you got one more. If you lose your season is over.”
Manteca battled on Saturday. After falling behind 2-0 after six outs, the Buffaloes tied the game at two and four apiece in the top of the third and fourth frames.
Despite its nine total hits, Manteca never led Central Catholic (23-5).
“They had 15 hits on the day,” Ballardo said. “They did a very good job and put some good swings on the ball. They’re a good team.
“We made some base-running mistakes. But not to take away from the fact that they hit the ball and they played better than us. They did what it (took) to win the game.”
Central Catholic’s No. 3 hitter, senior Blake Escobar, highlighted a six-run bottom of the fifth inning with a three-run jack over the deep fence at Zupo.
Manteca was trailing 6-4 but trailed by eight runs after five innings. The Buffaloes scored the game’s final two runs in the top of seven, respectively.
“We were playing catch up from the get-go,” Ballardo said. “We would cut it to two and then they would score two more.
“Our pitchers had a hard time locating. We walked eight guys and that’s uncharacteristic for our pitchers. We gave (Central) right free passes, and against a team like that that can hit the ball...there you go.”
Manteca started its 6-foot, 1-inch junior Lucas Vaughn, who went four innings and gave up six runs and left the game down 6-4.
Sophomore Dominick Posano pitched an inning and gave up the other half of the Raiders’ runs.
Michael Garibay pitched the final two innings and got the last six outs without any runs allowed.
Ballardo plans on starting junior standout Jacob Corn on Tuesday afternoon.
“We’ll make the decision of who (would be) starting the second game later on,” Ballardo concluded.
If Manteca wins it will force a winner-take-all Game 3 on the same field right after with the winner advancing to the single-game section championship on May 27.
To contact John-Joel Griffiths, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org