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Ripon holds on for first win

Ace pitcher Donaldson solid in TVL opener

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Ripon holds on for first win

Ripon ace Michael Donaldson delivers a pitch during Friday's Trans Valley League opener against visiting Modesto Christian.


POSTED March 14, 2009 6:37 a.m.
RIPON — Michael Donaldson put a preseason’s worth of frustration into his final pitch — a game-ending strike on a 2-2 fastball that Modesto Christian’s Devan Brown, caught off balanced after swinging on consecutive curveballs earlier in the at-bat, looked at.

Ripon is off the winless snide and off to a terrific start to the Trans Valley League season.

Donaldson struck out nine while scattering just four hits and three walks against the Crusaders’ potent lineup, and he was backed by a game-changing three-run fifth inning in Ripon’s 4-3 victory Friday.

Donaldson pumped a fist and let out a triumphant scream as he hopped off the mound following strikeout No. 9. After the Indians dropped all four of their preseason contests, the clinching pitch was worthy of such a reaction.

“This is the big one,” Donaldson said. “This is huge. It’s a good start to the season, that’s for sure.”

Modesto Christian fell to 4-3 overall but figures to be in the mix for TVL contendership after a rare off year. Last season, the Crusaders were 4-11 in the regular season, 5-18 overall.

“Believe it or not, we’ve been preparing for just this game,” Ripon coach Mark Whelan said. “We didn’t put a whole lot of emphasis on the preseason, our emphasis was on trying to do different things.
“We were trying to win, but it wasn’t the goal. We wanted to make sure we were ready for league.”

Modesto Christian’s Ryan McConnell, who was also solid from the mound (seven strikeouts, four hits), put the pressure on Donaldson and the Indians after smashing a solo homer in the top of the sixth.

Donaldson was visibly shaken by the shot, but he settled back into his groove and got the final five outs — two of them highlighted by nice plays made by second baseman Francisco Gustin to start the seventh.

“He was absolutely outstanding today,” Whelan said. “He doesn’t throw 90 miles per hour, but he spots his fastball and mixes in a really good knuckleball with his curveball.

“One mistake on a 3-2 fastball was all he made. But he’s our No. 1 pitcher, and that’s what I’m counting on him to do.”

Whelan also counts on Kyle Wagner to deliver the big hits, and he did just that in the sixth with Ripon trailing, 2-1.

Kory Parks and Jared Macedo led off with back-to-back walks to spark the rally, and Wagner sliced a deep fly ball to right and legged out a triple to bring them both home.

With two outs, sophomore Zach Evans drove in the much-needed insurance run, as his routine chopper turned into an infield single with McConnell colliding with third baseman Patrick White while attempting to field the ball.

“It took us a little while to get the bats going, but our bats are starting to come around,” Whelan said. “We had some defensive issues early, but we worked through it.

“Now we’re on pace. Now we know where we stand. These guys are a darn good team. This is what we geared up for, and we’re playing ball now.”

Ripon next squares off with in-town rival Ripon Christian Wednesday, 4 p.m. at Ripon Christian.
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