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BASEBALL: Knights fend off Bradshaw to reach D6 final
Bulletin baseball 2018
Declan Van Vuren slides safely to the plate for a Ripon Christian run in the seventh inning as Bradshaw Christian catcher Matthew Meek waits for the throw. - photo by GARY JENSEN/

SACRAMENTO — A freshman who has played sparingly in recent weeks, Joseph DeBruyn came up with the big hit Tuesday that advances Ripon Christian to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI final.

His two-out, RBI single in the top of the seventh inning gave the fourth-seeded Knights a much-needed insurance run against No. 2 Bradshaw Christian, and they held on for an 8-7 victory at Dan McAuliffe Memorial Ballpark.

“He has been swinging the bat so well in batting practice and I really wanted to give him a couple of at-bats,” Ripon Christian coach John De Visser said. “I’ve been looking at making this change for a while and I decided to pull the trigger today, and he came up huge with two outs.

“He stayed prepared and ready, and he showed up today. The moment wasn’t too big for him.”

Ripon Christian (18-6-1) has now won 13th straight going into its second section title-round appearance in three years. The Knights await the winner of Thursday’s Modesto Christian-Bradshaw Christian consolation-bracket semifinal. The title round is set for Monday at a site and time yet to be determined. Modesto Christian, seeded sixth, edged out No. 1 Rio Vista 8-7 on Tuesday.

“Just one more,” Ripon Christian shortstop Nolan Lingley said. “Can’t think about the streak too much, just play our game, pitch well and score enough runs.”

The Knights scored enough on Tuesday, busting open a 7-0 lead. Bradshaw Christian (16-10) made things interesting thanks to Drew Phillips, who relieved Wade Phyfer (four hits, four walks, strikeout) on the mound after the second inning and silenced Ripon Christian’s bats for the next four.

Lingley (2 for 4) — he earlier doubled and scored on Willem Hoekstra’s triple to start the game — got the Knights’ first hit off Phillips (three hits, five strikeouts, two walks) with a one-out double to left in the sixth but was left stranded on second.

Ripon Christian didn’t waste its next opportunity.

Declan Van Vuren (2 for 4, RBI) led off the seventh with a single and stole second. Phillips struck out the next two batters before squaring off with DeBruyn, RC’s No. 8 hitter who had two infield popups and a flyout to left in his previous at-bats. He made the necessary adjustments in the batter’s box to deliver what ended up being the deciding blow.

“(Phillips) was a lot slower than a lot of guys we’ve seen this year, so that threw off our timing and made it a lot harder to barrel the ball,” DeBruyn said. “I just had to sit back. I was early on my first at-bat against him, so I got up in the box and just looked for fastball because he was throwing junk, too. I just had a fastball approach.”

The Lions of Sacramento threatened to tie it in the sixth and seventh innings, plating a run in each. Phyfer, who finished 3 for 4 with two RBIs from the No. 9 hole, scored on Evan Zeppierri’s groundout in the sixth to close Bradshaw in, 7-6. Lingley replaced starting pitcher Hoekstra and got cleanup hitter Matthew Meek to fly out to center field for the third out, leaving a runner on third.

Lingley picked up his fifth save of the season but not after some nervous moments in the seventh. Bradshaw mounted a two-out rally with Jacob Alsup (2 for 4, two runs) and Phillips (2 for 4) getting back-to-back hits. Alsup scored on a wild pitch, and Lingley induced a groundout by Phyfer to seal the victory.  

“I get excited in games like this,” Lingley said. “My adrenaline gets up and I like to throw the ball hard, so I missed a couple spots.”

Hoekstra fired seven strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings but surrendered six runs (five earned) on eight hits and four walks. He did not give up an earned run in his previous five starts. Hoekstra did help spot himself the early lead with RBI hits in the first two innings, finishing 2 for 3 with a walk.

“For the first time in our winning streak our youth showed,” De Visser said. “If it wasn’t for our seniors really buckling down it could have snowballed. We were showing our emotions like we never had, and it was just not a good look.

“Once we got things settled down we were fine, but we had to start making pitches. That’s a really good team and we’ve never gotten past these guys. We possibly have to see them again.”