RIPON — The Ripon High baseball squad faced the top pitcher in the Trans-Valley League in Modesto Christian's Jovon Watkins.
For the better part of the game on Thursday, the league's reigning Pitcher of the Year had the Indians handcuffed to just three hits while holding on to a 3-1 lead entering the sixth inning.
That's when Ripon rallied against Watkins and MC for four runs on three hits while pulling out a 5-3 victory.
"Every team in the TVL has at least one loss," said Indians coach Jacob Rodriguez. "I think it will continue to be dogfight throughout the rest of the season."
Ripon (2-1 TVL, 5-4 overall) kicked off the comeback with Brandon Molthen, who is one of two freshmen on the team — infielder Korbin Hodgson is the other — doubling and Brandon Rainer drawing a one-out walk.
Sophomore Devon Bacon was plucked, loading the bases. Nethanial Stum dropped a bloop single, scoring Molthen and Rainer hustling on the play for the tying run.
John Eicher's two-run double to center put the Indians ahead.
Molthen, who came to pitch the final two innings, earned the victory by retiring the side in order.
"That was a great win for us," said Rodriguez, who praised his upperclassmen for welcoming younger players such as Molthen, Hodgson and Bacon prior to the start of the season.
He added: "It's all about being a family."
As in family, Rodriguez was proud of his team pulling together even when being down.
Modesto Christian (0-3 TVL, 7-6) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning with Cody Brockman delivering home Watkins, who ripped a one-out double to center.
He was 3 for 4 at the plate.
Gerald Nix, the Indians' starter, got out of slight jam in the third. After yielding a one-out single to his pitching counterpart Watkins and hitting the next batter, he got out of the inning with a strikeout and fly ball.
Ripon evened the score at 1-1in the bottom of the frame.
Sean McCann, who posted the first hit off Watkins, swiped second with two outs, scoring on the throwing error to first.
The Crusaders went ahead in the fifth, scoring twice on three hits including an RBI single by Calvin Pless and sacrifice fly by Brockman.
McCann took over from Nix in the fifth with one out, getting a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play — Rainer, who was behind the plate, threw out the runner at second.
Molthen pitched the sixth and seventh, retiring six of the seven batters he faced.