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BASEBALL: Knights oust VOL champs
Ripon Christian proving it can hang with big schools
Bulletin sports 2020-21
Ripon Christian's Will Gilbert steals third ahead of the tag by Sierra's Zach Fonseca. - photo by GARY JENSEN/

RIPON — It is a safe bet that the traditional Valley Oak League baseball coaches will breathe a sigh of relief when COVID realignment ends and Ripon Christian goes back to the Southern League. Until then, the Knights are a force to be reckoned with.

After splitting with VOL powerhouses Central Catholic and Oakdale earlier this season, Caleb Terpsma and Dustin Hoekstra led Ripon Christian to a season sweep of defending league champion Sierra on Thursday. They dominated the visiting Timberwolves, 8-2.

“This is fun baseball, popcorn baseball,” Knights coach John De Visser said. “I just love this. The kids are playing outstanding right now — they are playing out of their skull. I love every second of it. 

“They are so well-coached over there and are such a good team. A lot of these schools are schools I have been dreaming of playing since I took over here years ago, and now we are having the opportunity to do it. We are showing that we can hang a little bit.” 

De Visser has a freshman pitcher (Hoekstra) and a freshman catcher (Grant Sonke).

“I have a freshman pitcher, a freshman catcher and five underclassmen,” De Visser said. “These guys are stepping up. You put the gauntlet down so you can see what those young guys are going to do with all that stuff in front of them.

“You don’t know if they are going to fold because they are so young. But the older guys are taking over and you can see the maturation of the program turning over. It’s a lot of fun seeing the older guys taking initiative and making sure that everyone is on the same page. My senior leadership is outstanding.”

Terpsma was outstanding on both offense and defense, going 3 for 3 with a pair of doubles, three RBI and three runs as well as three put-outs in the final two innings in center field — two running catches in the sixth and the game-ending catch in the seventh. 

“Today was just a fun day,” Terpsma said. “We bounced back late last game and got the win in extras and I think that was the momentum that carried over into today. The team played great and we had a good day. 

“We are where we want to be right now and we just need to keep improving.”

Through the first 5.1 innings, Hoekstra allowed just one ball into the outfield. He finished with four strikeouts, two hits and six walks as well as scoring two runs. 

“In the first inning I wanted to throw fastballs and keep my off-speed back for a bit,” Hoekstra said. “And they were hitting grounders and the defense didn’t make a single error today. The defense was just amazing.”

Hoekstra said of Terpsma’s defense in center field, “He has been like that the whole year. He got me out of a big jam against Central Catholic.”

Terpsma had RBI doubles in the two-run third and three-run fourth for Ripon Christian (6-4 VOL, 7-4 overall) and scored in both innings. The Knights were buoyed by three Timberwolves errors in the fourth inning.

Ripon’s Eli Terpsma went 2 for 4 but reached base in all four of his at-bats thanks to two Timberwolves errors.  

Sierra (5-5) scored in the first and seventh innings. Leadoff batter Santi Duarte walked and worked his way to third where he was knocked in on a Brendan Rapisura fielder’s choice and in the seventh on a bases-loaded walk to Ivan Vieira, plating Caleb Perales. 

According to Sierra coach Travis Thomson, his team was not swinging the bat when it should.

“That’s a good team over there,” Thomson said. “Their pitcher did a good job pounding the zone and we did not have a good approach at the plate. We just took way too many strikes.

“Coaching at third way too many times I heard the umpire call a strike one, and they were hitting when we threw a strike. They were balanced at the plate and we were not. They do not seem overpowering, but they had quality at-bat after quality at-bat.”