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RC falls flat in play-in game

Knights 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position vs. Wildfires

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RC falls flat in play-in game

Danny Vander Molen connects for a single during Ripon Christian’s short-lived rally in the bottom of the fifth inning Monday.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED May 13, 2014 12:55 a.m.

RIPON – The players gathered in shallow left field with their heads hung low, waiting … and waiting … and waiting for their skipper’s final thoughts.

Feeling the frustration of a season-ending 3-0 loss to Foresthill on Monday afternoon, Ripon Christian head coach John de Visser needed a cool-down lap. Or three. 

After two hours of stunningly flat baseball, Ripon Christian waited until it was too late to show any kind of emotion. 

“I saw it in the first inning. I saw it in and out. The thing that frustrates you as a coach – this is a playoff game,” de Visser said. “We were flat today … absolutely flat. We could never get that spark to get us going.

“That’s what frustrates me more than anything, and frankly, it’s what disappoints me.”

Aaron Arnett tossed a three-hit shutout, outdueling Travis Vander Molen, and Cody MacKay doubled and scored two runs for the Wildfires, whose reward for winning Monday’s Division VI play-in game is a date with the No. 1 seed and defending champion Bradshaw Christian.

The matchups don’t seem to bother head coach Ed Whitsett, whose team played loose on Monday despite a two-hour drive. 

Whitsett said his Wildfires (14-6)  are enjoying the opportunity to travel and play baseball. 

“It’s easy for these kids,” he said. “They just love to play. Get them out of the car, put some cleats on them and get ’em on the field. They’re ready to go.”

It showed on Monday.

Foresthill attacked from the outset. MacKay led off the game with a single behind the bag at second base.  Shortstop Travis Vander Molen, who would eventually relieve starter Conner McGovern in the second,  tried to make a play but sailed his off-balanced throw over the head of first baseman Lukas Vermeulen. 

MacKay glided into second, but wouldn’t be there long.

He stole third and continued home when catcher Danny Vander Molen’s pick-off throw carried into left field.

MacKay would make it 2-0 in the third after lacing a lead-off double into the left-center field gap. He took third on a passed ball and scored with a head-first slide on Nick Smith’s groundout.

“That was big for us,” Whitsett said of the early production. “We lost the last two games before this and we had runner son base and didn’t get them across the plate. So (those runs) made a huge difference.”

Smith would provide an insurance run in the sixth. He doubled and then scored on a groundout by Connor McCann.

While Foresthill took advantage of its opportunities, Ripon Christian struggled to time Arnett’s fastball. The right-hander with the jerky motion struck out 14, including five of the last eight batters he faced.

Arnett scattered three hits – all singles – and wisely stayed away from Travis Vander Molen with runners on second and third in the fifth inning.

Travis Vander Molen had flown out to the deepest parts of the ball park – center field and right-center – in his first two at-bats. Arnett intentionally walked him in the sixth to load the bases with two outs and then got Billy Marr to look at a called third strike to escape.

“He’s been doing it for four years now,” Whitsett said. “He’s just one of those kids that is gifted.”

The Knights were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Danny Vander Molen, McGovern and Travis Zuidervaart had Ripon Christian’s only base hits. 

“I’ve got to get better five through nine. I have to lengthen the lineup next year,” de Visser said. “You could tell how young these guys were at the plate. (Arnett) was throwing fastballs for strikes, but he threw eight, maybe nine breaking balls. 

“Even though we talked about it between every inning, they couldn’t put it into practice. They couldn’t take it with them on the field.” 

Travis Vander Molen was superb in relief. He struck out 13 over the final six innings, allowing only one earned run and three hits. 

“We can’t have just one guy show up,” de Visser said. 

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