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Houle stifles Salida to lift all-star team to semifinals
Ethan Johnson (right) celebrates with teammate Gabriel Ortiz after the Manteca 9-10 year old All-Star teams 7-4 victory over Salida during the quarterfinals of the District 67 All-Star Tournament Friday. - photo by JOHN-JOEL GRIFFITHS

SALIDA — Grant Houle of the Manteca minor division All-Star squad went to work for  4 1/3 innings Friday during the quarterfinals of the District 67 Little League Tournament.

Houle finished with 10 strikeouts, one walk and gave up three runs on six hits during a 7-4 victory against the Salida Blue All-Stars, which helped propel Manteca into the winner’s bracket semifinal.

The Spreckels Park 9-10 year olds followed Manteca, but they came up short against Tracy American, 12-7. Spreckels Park now faces elimination in the consolation bracket Sunday at 11:45 a.m.

Manteca will play against Tracy American 2:30 p.m. today in Salida with a trip to the finals on the line, which is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. on the same field Wednesday evening.

“(Houle) did a great job,” Salida Blue’s 9-10 year old All-Star coach Lapon Chanthamany said. “The game would have been a lot closer, but the first six runs (Manteca) got on the board were on four of our errors.

“Our boys came out to play, but we were a little flat. There were a little bit of jitters.”

Manteca took full advantage of Salida’s nerves and scored three runs in each of the first two innings. Head coach Jason Genilla’s squad came out ready.

After Houle reached his 75-maximum pitch count, Isaac Searcy entered the game and willed Manteca through the rest of the fourth and fifth innings.

Garren Genilla came in to close with two on and no outs in the bottom of the sixth.

“Grant pitched for the Diamondbacks all year and was our starter,” coach Genilla said. “We brought him straight into this All-Star (tournament), and (Houle) came out throwing strikes.

“Isaac and Garren were pitchers for the Diamondbacks also, and those guys carried us into the (semis).”

Houle earned the win and Genilla the save. Briggs Alavezos, Genilla and shortstop Ryan Zimmermann all scored in Manteca’s three-run first. After Salida cut its deficit to two in the bottom of the first, Manteca answered back with an additional three runs in the second.

Alavezos, Genilla and Gabriel Ortiz all crossed the plate to give their team an early 6-1 cushion.

“The boys had a lot of heads-up base running,” coach Genilla added. “That was a huge part of it. They were all real aggressive on the bases, and that’s what gave us quite a few runs.

“We came out swinging the bats. That was huge. We’re living the dream right now and they’re all doing their best. I’m very proud.”

Salida scored two in the bottom of the third, which made it 6-3. Both squads exchanged runs in the fifth inning. Searcy tallied an RBI-single that scored William Rocha for Manteca’s seventh and final run.

Manteca third baseman Ethan Johnson made multiple defensive plays, including the first out of the sixth frame which was an unassisted force at third.

During the nightcap, Spreckels Park fought back to tie the game at four apiece in the third inning. That was not enough, however.

Tracy American scored the next eight unanswered to take a 12-4 advantage heading into the bottom of the sixth inning.

Spreckels Park attempted to rally and scored three more in the last inning before leaving three runners stranded, making up the game’s final score.

Damian Lopez had a triple and scored on a Jacob Martinez RBI-single to highlight the sixth inning.