LODI — Jake Corn got out of bed Tuesday morning and knew it was going to be a good day.
“I felt really good,” Manteca High School’s ace said. “I felt phenomenal as soon as I woke up.”
That he had to wait eight hours until the first pitch of Game 2 of Manteca’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal series against Cosumnes Oaks of Elk Grove was of little consequence. Corn said he felt good in the bullpen, too.
That carried onto the mound at Tony Zupo Field, where he baffled the Wolfpack in a 9-0 victory that propelled the Buffaloes (24-3) into Monday’s title game. Crosstown rival Sierra takes on Vista del Lago of Folsom today at 4 p.m. at Zupo. Vista del Lago leads the best-of-three series 1-0.
Manteca coach Neil MacDannald didn’t want to speculate as to who would be the next opponent.
“We know Sierra, obviously, but we know Vista, too, because we’ve seen them enough times,” McDannald said. “It’s a cliché, but it’s the God’s honest truth: We don’t worry about who’s in the other dugout. We just try to play baseball.”
Either way, Sierra (21-5) or Vista del Lago (25-4) will face a fully rested Corn – not an ideal proposition in a winner-take-all scenario.
“He’s pretty good,” Cosumnes Oaks coach James Murdock deadpanned after the game. “They are one of the best teams we’ve faced all year. When we made mistakes, they made us pay. They’re disciplined at the plate, and their hitters hit our mistakes. They’re aggressive on the basepaths, and their pitchers hit their spots.”
Yes, it would be hard to imagine another team playing as well-rounded a game right now as the Buffaloes.
After Corn struck out the side in the first, Michael Garibay opened the bottom of the frame with a double. A walk to Dom Pisano put two runners on for William Reeder. The Manteca catcher singled, but the ball hit Garibay in the leg as he headed for third, and he was called out. Pisano and Reeder moved up 90 feet on an errant pickoff throw, and Corn brought them home with a two-run single.
That was all Corn would need, but the Buffs were in no mood to slow the stampede.
In the second, a two-run triple by Pisano made it 4-0, and Reeder singled him in to make it 5-0. Joe Menzel, who helped guide Manteca to a Division III section football title last fall as the team’s quarterback, drove in two more in the third with a top-spin bouncer that ate up first baseman J.R. Mendonca.
From there, the Buffaloes tacked on runs in the fourth – on an RBI single by Corn – and sixth – Lucas Vaughn drove in Reeder, who doubled for his fourth hit of the game two spots earlier.
It was overkill. Corn was determined to avoid an anything-can-happen “if game” and wrap up the best-of-three matchup in two.
“Definitely,” said Corn, who struck out 10, walked none and scattered five hits in six innings. “We came so close my freshman year (a 14-4 loss to Oakdale in the section final); it was an amazing feeling. I know I want to go out this year with a bang.”
Corn, a candidate for The Bee’s Player of the Year award, improved to 7-2 and lowered his ERA to 0.77. He has 100 strikeouts and nine walks in 64 innings pitched.
“My fastball was working today, and when I stayed on top of my change-up, it really bottomed out for me,” said Corn, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound southpaw. “Most of the time, my curveball is pretty shaky, but it hung in there for me.”