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ALL-AREA BASEBALL: Catch him if you can
MVP Grant Sonke sparked Ripon Christian attack on base paths
All-Area Baseball
Ripon Christian’s Grant Sonke steals second base in a Southern Athletic League tilt against Waterford on April 4. GARY JENSEN/


MVP: C Grant Sonke, Ripon Christian, So.


Offensive Player of The Year: P/3B/OF Dawson Downs, Ripon, So


Pitcher of the Year: Zach Todd, Manteca, Sr.


Team: INF/P Santi Duarte, Sierra, Sr.; 1B Jacob Kowes, Ripon Christian, Jr.; INF/P Dylan Lee East Union, Jr.; INF/P Alex Murrietta, Manteca, Jr.; C Brendan Rapisura, Sierra, Sr.; C Chase Stephenson, Ripon, Sr.; SS/P Eli Terpsma, Ripon Christian, Jr.; 1B Jacob Toste, East Union, Sr.; OF Rex Watson, Manteca, So.

It’s not often that a catcher is a consistent threat on the base paths, but Grant Sonke is proving to be a rare athlete for Ripon Christian.

A three-sport standout at the small-school powerhouse, the sophomore was able to put his all-around talents on display during the baseball season. He was the Knights’ leading hitter, a tone setter on the base paths and catcher for their deep pitching staff.

Sonke is the Manteca Bulletin All-Area MVP. Ripon Christian was one of three area teams that qualified for the postseason, finishing third in the Southern Athletic League at 10-4 and 17-9-1 overall.

Sonke was one of five Knights to make the All-SAL team. His slash line — .429/.529/.714 (average/on-base/slugging percentage) — led Ripon Christian, as did his 36 hits, 13 doubles, four triples, 47 runs and 36 stolen bases. He also drove in 23 runs.

In fact, his run and steal totals ranked among the best in the state, placing him 13th and 10th, respectively. He ended up third in the Sac-Joaquin Section in runs, and first in steals.

Halfway through the season, Sonke broke the program’s steals record with his 27th in a home win over Gustine on April 12.

Ripon Christian won 13 straight at one point and was in contention for the SAL title going into the final two weeks of the regular season. The streak began with a thrilling 6-5 win over non-league rival Ripon followed by an important sweep of Le Grand, with ended up fourth in the SAL. The Knights then defeated Turlock Christian 7-5 to force a season sweep in the non-league series. Turlock Christian won the SJS Division VI crown and reached the NorCal Division V semifinals.

Sonke was 5-for-13 with two triples, two RBIs, 11 runs and six steals in that stretch.

Ripon Christian dropped its final four SAL contests to runner-up Orestimba and champion Mariposa, which were able to limit Sonke’s opportunities on the base paths. Orestimba went on to reach the SJS Division IV semifinals, while Mariposa advanced to the Division VI title game and lost.

The Knights lost their Division VI opener to eventual runner-up Valley Christian, 5-4. They’ll likely be back in the conversation for the league title next season and possibly much more, with the likes of Sonke returning. The team’s other All-SAL selections included three juniors and another sophomore.