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Manteca LL juniors finish strong to earn berth to TOC finals
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TRACY — The Manteca Little League Red Sox overcame early miscues, got clutch hits up and down the lineup and a dominant relief pitching effort from A.J. Kovacs to dispatch cross-town rival Spreckels Park 10-6 in the District 67 Junior Tournament of Champions winners-bracket semifinal Friday at Monticello School.
Three of the four remaining teams in this division hail from Manteca. Northgate encounters Tracy American this morning at 10 a.m. with the winner earning a consolation semifinal showdown with the Giants of Spreckels Park. Manteca, meanwhile, gets the luxury of having the weekend off while saving its pitching. The first of a possible two championship-round contests is on Monday.
Both Manteca and Spreckels Park struggled with errors Friday, but Kovacs helped settle things down for the Red Sox with his perfect appearance. He retired the Giants’ final seven batters in order and struck out four of them. Ryan Zimmermann started on the mound and was replaced by Christian Tonna after two innings. Tonna got the win and gave up a run in 2 2/3 innings.
Manteca committed four of its five errors in the bottom of the first inning, allowing the Giants to stake a 3-1 lead. The Red Sox relented on the offensive end and capitalized on Spreckels Park’s seven errors, which did no favors for workhorse pitcher Joel Gallo (5 1/3 innings, five strikeouts).
The Red Sox jumped ahead for good in the top of the fourth, breaking a 5-5 tie after Zimmermann (3 for 5, double, three runs, RBI)  and Briggs Alavezos (3 for 4, three runs, RBI) reached on singles on scored on separate outfield errors.
Matthew Murray delivered the backbreaker in the sixth with a two-run double. No. 9 hitter Eddie DeFrenchi went 2 for 3 with a double, a run and an RBI.
Spreckels Park did most of its damage in the first two innings. Trailing 1-0, Dominic Rea (2 for 4, two runs, double) led off the home half of the first with a single and plated the tying run on an errant pickoff throw. Jesse Ortiz-Martinez was hit by a pitch and was driven in by Gallo’s fielder’s choice. Kenny Kuwands singled and scored on a balk to make it 3-1.
Josh Brake, who walked three times, and Rea scored one apiece in the second on an infield error.
The Giants’ bats then went silent thanks to the relief pitching of Tonna and Kovacs. Their final two hits came in the fifth inning when Brake walked in a run. Spreckels Park was held to just six hits total while the Red Sox tagged 11.
Manteca’s defense also tightened up after its earlier mishaps. Center fielder Matt Dunham made the highlight play of the game in the top of the fourth, robbing Rea of a likely multi-base hit with a leaping grab deep in the right-field gap while nearly colliding with Will Rocha.