Sonora High School came oh-so-close to its first Valley Oak League baseball victory yesterday, but wound up falling 5-1 in nine innings to Buhach Colony of Atwater at Bev Barron Field.
The Wildcats (5-11, 0-6 VOL) threatened in the bottom of the sixth inning when, with the game tied 1-1, catcher Greg Pappas lined a one-out double up the gap in left-center field.
He moved to third on a groundout, but was stranded when Buhach pitcher Tommy Bone got the next batter on a called third strike.
Sonora couldn't muster another threat against either Bone or his eighth-inning replacement, Adam Umberg. A double by Casey Ramback early in the game off Bone was the Wildcats' only other hit.
Bone and Umberg are juniors who kept Sonora at bay with lively fastballs and sharp breaking pitches, striking out nine. They're the main reasons Buhach (11-4, 4-2) is contending for the VOL championship in its first season at the varsity level. The Thunder shares second place with Manteca (9-6, 4-2) and Sierra of Manteca (10-7, 4-2), one game behind Oakdale (12-4, 5-1).
Senior right-hander Justin Hart of Sonora locked up in a nifty fuel with Bone, pitching into the ninth and giving up only five hits.
"Justin threw a good game, but we just couldn't pull it out for him," Sonora coach Mike Silva said.
Buhach took a 1-0 led in the top of the second and Sonora tied it in the bottom of the third when Travis Hendrix was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored when Mike Taylor's two-out groundball went through the legs of a Buhach infielder for an error.
The Thunder broke through in the ninth, chasing Hart with a walk and a single and greeting reliever Louis McColloch with two more hits the capper a run-scoring single by Umberg.
Sonora is home again tomorrow at 4 p.m. to play Oakdale, with hopes of ending its seven-game losing streak and avenging an 8-4 loss to the Mustangs in the VOL opener March 19.