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BASEBALL: Sauer, Sonke lead RC’s semifinal comeback win at Argonaut
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 After his team spotted Argonaut four runs Wednesday in game 2 of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI semifinal, Ripon Christian coach John de Visser took notice of how composed the Knights were as he made an early pitching change.

“We get down by four in the first inning with one out, and there’s absolutely no panic,” he said.

Logan Sauer kept them in it in a gutty pitching appearance in long relief, and Grant Sonke crushed two clutch homers as Ripon Christian completed the best-of-three sweep in Jackson with a 14-6 victory.

The fourth-seeded Knights (21-8) rallied for eight runs in the top of the seventh, jumping ahead for good on freshman Noah DeBruyn’s two-run double to right.

Ripon Christian will next face Leroy Greene Academy (22-4) in the final round next Tuesday at Islanders Field in Lathrop. The one-off title game is set to start at 6.

Ripon Christian has a chance to repeat as Section champion. And for the second straight year, Sauer came up big in the semifinals pitching in relief.

“He was working fast on the warmest day of the spring, so far,” de Visser said. “Logan is just unflappable. He has no heart rate. He kept us in it and gave our offense a chance to get going.”

Sauer replaced starter Jordan Luisi with two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the first and was able to get out of the jam with a groundout after walking a batter to load the bases.

Argonaut (10-13), seeded eighth, again left the bases loaded in the second when Sauer hit back-to-back batters. The junior righty settled into a groove from there and continued his solid outing after giving up two runs that gave Argonaut a 6-5 lead in the fourth.

Sauer responded by retiring seven straight batters before he walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh. Luke Crivello, one of the Knights’ two aces who was saved for the “if necessary” third game, closed out the contest and ended it with a strikeout.

Sauer pitched 5 2/3 innings for the win, striking out three while surrendering two earned runs on three hits, two walks and two hit batters.

“We extended him today,” de Visser said. “He hasn’t thrown more than 70 pitches since the beginning of the season, and he was just short of 90 today. I thought he was going to rip my head off in the seventh when I took the ball from him, but he just ran out of gas. Who can blame him? That lineup is really, really good.”

Ripon Christian got its attack going with small ball, plating two of its three runs of the game on well-executed squeeze bunts from brothers Josh and Luke Crivello.

Ricky Van Unen reached on a one-out bunt single in the fourth, and that’s when the Knights went big.

Sonke hit his home runs on the next two pitches he saw. His two-run blast in the fourth momentarily gave Ripon Christian its first lead of the game, and he tied it at 6-6 in the sixth with a towering shot to straightaway center field.

Sonke added a fourth RBI with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, finishing 3 for 3 with a walk and two steals.

“Grant Sonke absolutely destroyed the baseball to center field twice,” de Visser said. “That’s unreal. It not only changes the scoreboard, it changes the demeanor of both teams.

“He was due for one of these days the way he’s been hitting the ball — it was just a matter of time. Those (home runs) were not cheapies. If he starts rolling like this in the playoffs, we are really dangerous.”

Fellow senior Dustin Hoekstra also had three hits, driving in a run and plating two. David Koolhaas (double, RBI), Luke Crivello (two runs, two RBIs) and DeBruyn all went 2 for 4. Joshua Buffalow went 2 for 5 and contributed a two-RBI single to the Knights’ knockout flurry in the seventh. Ripon Christian totaled 16 hits.

Marcus Scaife went 3 for 4 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI for Argonaut, which had 10 hits. Hayden Lawton took the loss after striking out eight in six innings.

“Their guy (Lawton) was dealing,” de Visser said. “We were able to scrape across some runs to keep us within striking distance. I was trying to keep it to one run late and hopefully out-execute them in the end, but one big hit (from DeBruyn) and that inning turned out to be what it was.”

Ripon Christian and second-seeded Greene Academy will meet for the first time next week. The Lions from Sacramento swept No. 3 Vacaville Christian in the other semifinal series.

The Knights are a win away from seizing a third SJS championship.

“Winning these things are hard,” de Visser said. “It took a long time for us to get the first one. There is a lot of good baseball out here.”