SACRAMENTO -- Oakdale High turned to its bullpen for a season-saving performance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 baseball playoffs and Matt Butler stepped forward.
The junior lefty threw three shutout innings of relief and the Mustangs rallied in the final two innings for a 3-2 win over Rio Linda to open their three-game semifinal series.
Valley Oak League foe Manteca also had a nailbiter, but lost 3-2 to top-seeded El Dorado in its best-of-three opener.
Those same teams will be at McAuliffe Field Tuesday at 4 p.m. for Game 2. If Oakdale or El Dorado lose, a winner-take-all third game follows. The survivors play on Memorial Day.
Oakdale has won two of the last three section titles, but it lost in the semifinals to Placer in two games last season.
It looked as if that might occur again, as Rio Linda led 2-1 on the strength of Dustin Jenkins' two-run double in the third off Tanner Combs. That was all of Rio Linda's offense.
"Tanner had the problem in the third, but he did a good job keeping them quiet," said coach Hondo Arpoika, noting Combs struck out five and walked two. "Pitching has been a strength this season, and it was there again today."
Butler, who struggled with control in his final regular-season appearance, rewarded Arpoika's confidence in him.
"Matt came in and threw very well," Arpoika said. "He gave up a hit in his first inning, but then he faced the minimum the rest of the way. He struck out the first two in the seventh. He ended it with a grounder to third."
Oakdale tied it with a run in the sixth, as Mark Ortiz was hit by a pitch and was bunted over to second. He alertly scampered to third when Cole Branch hit a grounder that the shortstop had to track down behind second, and ran home on Joey Machado's two-out single.
The seventh started in identical fashion, with Butler being hit by a pitch. He moved up on a balk, went to third on a groundout similar to Branch's an inning earlier, and scored on Brennon Williams' sacrificed fly to left.
Craig Lefevre turned three impressive plays at third, said Arpoika, continuing another of Oakdale's strengths.
"We knew at the start of the season we would be in a lot of tight games, where a mistake could cost you a win," Arpoika said. "Braydon Stephens also made some nice plays going to the middle for balls."
Oakdale will go with junior Brennon Williams (6-1, 1.20 ERA) Tuesday against Rio Linda ace Miles Chambers (8-1, 2.13), who hasn't given up a home run this season.
Manteca (18-9) went up 2-1 in the top of the fifth when Michael Timmons doubled in Trey Roberts and Kevin Peck, but El Dorado (26-2) tied it in the bottom of the inning.
Manteca junior Matt Burrows allowed an earned run and five hits in eight innings, striking out five. Matt Barber relieved in the ninth and got in trouble in the 10th as the leadoff batter doubled. After an intentional walk, a walk-off double ended the game.
The good news for Manteca is Matt Barber (11-1, 1.07) will likely start in what is an elimination game for the Buffaloes. Barber fired a one-hitter to beat River City 5-0 in the Buffs' opener on Wednesday.
"We told the kids we've got another shot at them and we like the idea that Barber will be out there pitching for us," coach Gene Ballardo said.