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Upstart Ripon rallies ahead of Lathrop to remain unbeaten

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Ripon High’s Mackenzie Gauden pitches to Adelina Moreno of Ripon in the top of the fourth inning of a nonleague contest Monday.


POSTED March 11, 2014 1:04 a.m.

RIPON — Ripon wasn’t at its best in an 11-1 nonleague win over Lathrop on Monday but was plenty good enough to end it in the bottom of the fifth on Cara Brown’s two-run double.

Expectations are higher for the Indians (4-0-1) this year coming off a season in which they qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. So, understandably, eighth-year coach Robert Vernon wasn’t entirely pleased with how his club started out Monday.

Lathrop’s Regina Juarez led off the game with a double, and after Ripon ace Mackenzie Gauden rung up her first two of nine strikeouts the Spartans were able to jump ahead on a dropped fly ball in left field. 

At the plate, Ripon struggled to get its timing down against slower pitching. It wasn’t until an eight-run outburst in the third that Indians flashed their true abilities on offense.

“They came out a little bit flat,” Vernon said. “After they made their adjustments they started to play the way I expect them to play. 

“We have to clean it up on defense. It’s the first time we’ve played (a live game) on our home field (this season) and the sun is always an issue here. It’s not an excuse but it is an issue. We should be good at it because we practice here.”

Gauden allowed just four base runners, and two of them reached on errors. Crystal Marquez swatted Lathrop’s other hit in the fourth. 

Taylor Vernon slugged a two-run homer to help spark Ripon’s big third inning and finished with three RBIs. Brown, a sophomore, also drove in three and went 3 for 4. Mikaela Ferreira, the lone freshman on the squad, was 2 for 3 and plated two of the runs in the third.

Ripon is playing with confidence after earning a co-championship with the Linden Tournament host on Saturday. The Indians battled Linden to a 3-3 draw. The Lions (3-0-1) are one of the perennial powers in the SJS Division IV playoffs, and they were runners-up to Hughson the past two years. 

Vernon believes his team has a shot at its first Trans-Valley League title since 1996 and even a section banner. Hughson, however, stands in the way of both.

The competitive game with Linden let Ripon know it can compete on that level.

“That was a litmus test for us,” Vernon said. “We played them tough, and after that game we believe that we are a legitimate contender. We’re a top-five team in our division and we should compete for a section title. 

“You always have to beat the Escalons and Hughsons of our league … but a boot, a bunt and a base hit is all it takes in this game. I’m pretty pleased with the way the year has gone so far.”

The Indians are led by three seniors who already have roster spots awaiting them at the next level: Tiana Chacon (Corban University), Taylor Vernon (William Penn University) and Gauden (Washington University in St. Louis). Fleet-footed Melanie Wilkerson is the fourth senior on the club. The addition of Ferreira is key because it allows Chacon, who had manned the hot corner for Ripon in previous seasons, to move to her natural position in the outfield.

“We have some good additions and veterans in key spots,” coach Vernon said. “We’re sitting pretty good right now.”


W. Ranch 2, Patterson 0 (8)

Arianna Hernandez was the hero for the Cougars (4-2).

On top of pitching eight full innings (five strikeouts, five hits), she knocked in the game’s only runs with a single in the top of the eighth inning. Elysia Hernandez (3 for 4) singled and Vanessa Contreras walked to set up the game-winning hit.

Both teams had chances to strike earlier, as freshman Christina Hernandez roped two doubles for Weston Ranch, and Patterson failed to convert on multiple bases-loaded situations.

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