MANTECA – Although Manteca High was seeded only one spot higher than visiting American Canyon in their CIF Sac-Joaquin Division III playoff opener, it didn’t look that way Tuesday afternoon at the Buffaloes’ home diamond.
What started out as a close game turned into a routine win for eighth-seeded Manteca. While No. 9 American Canyon ends its season with a 12-12-1 record, the Buffaloes (17-9-1) move on to play No. 1 seed Christian Brothers in Sacramento on Thursday.
Wolves head coach Matt Brown was philosophical after the game.
“They laid seven extra-base hits and four double plays on us; it’s hard to win those kind of games,” he said. “Their double-play combination was amazing. They made tough plays look routine. It’s tough to put up runs when you’re always in a two-out hole, as we were for four out of seven innings.”
Manteca pushed the first run across in the bottom of the first, when American Canyon was unable to turn what would have been an inning-ending double play on a controversial call at first base.
The Wolves responded in the top of the second after Cameron Peters rode a fastball all the way to the right-centerfield fence for a one-out double.
Nate Countouriotis followed with a walk, and the bases were loaded after the Manteca pitcher threw wildly to third on a Noah Myer bunt. After a strikeout, freshman Jordan Fisher came through with a sharp single to right on an 0-2 pitch to drive in two runs and give American Canyon it’s only lead.
“I was proud of the way the boys came back in the second inning,” Brown said. “It definitely showed some competitiveness.”
The big bats of the Buffaloes made their presence known in the bottom of the second, however, when Alex Gouevia doubled in two runs and scored on a Kyle Rachels double for a 4-2 Manteca lead. That would be the last inning for American Canyon starting pitcher Gustavo Ramirez.
With Nathan Banks pitching in relief, Wolves catcher Countouriotis threw out a Manteca base runner in the bottom of the third, and first baseman Peters had to reach for the sky to flag down a high throw and keep the Wolves within shouting distance.
But in the bottom of the fourth, Manteca introduced Banks to its big lumber. Dylan Gross and Isaac Maldonado opened the inning with back-to-back doubles, and Gouevia’s single brought in a pinch runner to make the lead 5-2. Zach Chamberlain followed with a ringing double that stretched the Buffaloes’ lead to 7-2, and still no one was out. Banks showed a lot of grit by retiring the next three batters, but the damage had been done.
Banks went the rest of the way for American Canyon and kept Manteca off the board, which was no easy task. But the Wolves couldn’t get anything more going offensively, thanks to stellar infield defense by Manteca that resulted in four double plays.
Brown was understandably disappointed after the game.
“I think we could have gone a little further,” he said of the postseason. “But considering we missed the playoffs last year with a 5-10 record, and graduated 10 seniors, I could also say we overachieved this year. We did well considering this should have been a rebuilding year. We’re a very young team and I’m extremely proud of the players for the way they competed.”
“We'll have almost everybody back next year. We’re only losing four seniors and we have some good JV kids we brought up for this game. One of them, Angel Yee, hammered a double in the last inning.”