RIPON — Sometimes a little talking to is all it takes.
Ripon pitcher Gerald Nix got off to a rough start Tuesday against visiting Trans-Valley League rival Escalon. A one-out single followed by four free passes — a hit batter and three walks — gave the Cougars two runs and the bases loaded with one out.
Enter assistant coach Matt Tyler and a mound visit. Following their chat, Nix struck out the next two batters and retired 14 of the next 15 on the way to a 13-3 five-inning win for the Indians.
“Coach Tyler just came out and asked me what was going on,” Nix said. “He told me if I needed to slow down then just slow down and find the zone, and when I found it I could do whatever I wanted to with it. Once I settled down and figured out my landing point and release everything started working.
“Before our talk I was all in my head telling myself I couldn’t throw a strike and wondering what was going on. Coach Tyler can settle me down and figure me out, and once I found the zone I didn’t think they could touch me. And Coach (Jacob) Rodriguez told me to make them beat me and not to beat myself. I think that had a huge impact.”
Nix totaled nine strikeouts and allowed just one more hit, a leadoff home run by Lucca Dutra in the third inning.
“Jerry (Gerald Nix) is a competitor,” Rodriguez said. “He is one of the best pitchers in the league. When he is throwing strikes, it is going to be tough to beat him.
“That first inning he wasn’t throwing strikes and Matt (Tyler) went out and talked to him and settled him down. After that he was nails.”
Following the first-inning walk fest by Ripon (1-0 TVL, 4-3 overall), Escalon (2-1, 7-5) ramped it up a notch in the second when the Indians posted eight runs behind 10 free passes and just one hit.
“Unfortunately, that looked like a Little League walk-a-thon there in that second inning,” Cougars coach Greg Largent said. “It happens and then you lose confidence and the outfield is out there a long time on their heels and the next thing you know there is a bloop hit and we are throwing to the wrong base.
“We had them in the first. All we needed was one more hit. We had the bags loaded with one out and we went strikeout, strikeout. I told my batter after their conference to be ready for a strike and to jump on the first pitch. And what do we do but take three and sit down. Good for Ripon. The good thing for us is we have a chance to salvage it on Thursday at our place.”
Nix doubled in and scored a run, ending the game via the mercy rule on a wild pitch. Freshman Brandon Molthen went 2 for 3 with two RBI, two runs and a double in his first TVL game.
“This feels pretty good,” Molthen said. “It always feels good to beat Eski.
“We had a good game and to get two hits makes it even better.”