Julian Montoya’s herculean throw from left field beat the outstretched cleats of a Waterford High runner to home plate in the bottom of the fifth inning and propelled the Riverbank Bruins to a sensational 2-1 win over the Wildcats in the final game of the Art McRae Classic on April 3.
Montoya recorded the second out of the inning on a routine fly to left, then gunned down the would-be game-tying run with two frames to play and watched as his teammates ensured the victory with comparable defense.
The win closed a 2-1 finish at the Art McRae. Riverbank fell 9-2 to Western Athletic Conference power and tourney co-host, Central Valley (14-3 overall) on April 1, but bounced back with a surprising 6-2 win over Pacheco (9-9) a day later.
Pacheco had dropped Riverbank (6-7) by the same 6-2 tally on March 1, but didn’t have an answer to the Rafael Verdin riddle. Verdin threw a complete game victory with just three hits surrendered and allowed just two runners to reach home in the third inning. He also hit 2 for 3 as the Bruins rallied to 11 knocks against the Panthers. Chad Oliver hit 2 for 4 while Tristin Rodgers was 3 for 4 with two doubles.
Oliver earned the win over Waterford, and helped his own cause by contributing to both Bruin runs. He knocked in Kevin Compton in the opening frame, then scored on a base hit by Antonio Perez. Waterford threatened to score in the fifth, but couldn’t sneak their lead runner across the plate after the superb throw by Montoya. Armando Manriquez (two hits against Central Valley) also contributed to the tournament success.
The Bruins are just 1-3 in the Trans-Valley League, but have already played Escalon (4-0) twice and will test wits against teams with a combined 5-7 TVL record to close the regular season.
The action resumes with a Hilmar team that reached the SJS finale last year, but fell to Escalon in the banner game. Hilmar opened league with a 1-1 split with Hughson and smashed Modesto Christian 16-3 on March 27, but fell 2-0 to MC a day later. The Yellowjackets were surprising 10-0 losers to a Mariposa team (11-1) that leads the Southern League.
“We still feel like we are in this,” Riverbank coach Ismael Mercado said. “There is a lot of baseball left for us and every league game is going to be huge.”
Riverbank plays host to Hilmar today, April 10. The Bruins are at Hilmar on Friday, April 12.