The first experience at Islanders Field will be a memorable one for both Sierra and Ripon, who needed an extra inning to decide their non-league tilt on Tuesday.
It was Austin Frisk’s one-out fielder’s choice that ended it in the eighth, propelling Sierra to a hard-earned 7-6 victory at the new River Islands ballpark in Lathrop.
Deshon Thomas led off the inning with a sharp single to left field, stole second and reached third on a wild pitch. Two batters later, Frisk worked a 2-2 count before belting a solid grounder to Ripon shortstop Korbin Hodgson, whose throw home was slightly high as the speedy Thomas slid headfirst to the plate.
“I just wanted to keep something up the middle so that he can use his speed and have a chance to be safe at home,” Frisk said. “Once I saw the shortstop dive, with his speed I knew he was going to be safe.”
Both players had big hits earlier for the Timberwolves (3-3). Thomas started the home half of the first with a first-pitch triple and scored on a wild pitch. He finished 2 for 5.
Frisk executed a bunt single — the first of three for Sierra on the night — in the first and laced a two-out, two-run double in the fourth to give the Timberwolves a 6-3 lead. He ended 2 for 4 with two runs and three RBIs.
Things did not always go smoothly for Sierra, which stranded 10 runners on base, committed two errors that led to unearned runs and walked seven batters while hitting one.
Reliever Kenny Kuwada pitched the final two innings for the win. He got through three batters with just 12 pitches in the top of the seventh, which was the only perfect half inning of the game.
“We’re giving up a free base runner an inning and that makes it tough on the pitcher and on the defense,” Sierra coach Travis Thomson said. “(Kuwada) just attacked the zone and that’s what he does so well. His ability to throw strike 1 and get a 0-2 count, that’s what separated him today.
Ripon (3-3) trailed for much of the game but did well to stay in it despite leaving 12 runners on base. Back-to-back two-out singles from Sean McCann (2 for 4, two RBIs) and Brandon Rainer tied the game at 6-6 in the top of the sixth.
Clutch defense and pitching helped lead to that point.
In the second, the Indians bailed out starting pitcher Brandon Molthen with a rare triple play — Thomas drilled a line drive to Hodgson, who flipped it to McCann at second for a force out before the ball was fired to first baseman Devin Bacon for another force out.
“I’ve been coaching a long time, 18 years, and you don’t see those too often,” Ripon coach Bobby Swedberg said. “It gave us a little bit of encouragement and excitement and we kind of fed of that for awhile.”
Mason Azavedo pitched the final five innings for the Indians. He worked himself into a jam and worked out of it in the fifth after giving up an infield hit to Ben Supinger, walk to Zion Bell and bunt single to Matt Dunham. Azavedo struck out the next three batters.
“We had a small army of base runners that we couldn’t get in,” Thomson said “They’re a good team, and we did some good things today. Just couldn’t seem to get over the hump.
Ripon had much of the same struggles as its counterpart, but its first-year coach — who previously coached Trans-Valley League rival Hilmar — is encouraged with how the club fared against the reigning Valley Oak League champion.
“Early in the year we’re just looking to compete,” Swedberg said. “Sierra is a great team and we’re building that atmosphere. We’ve lost a 7-2 game to a (Division I) school (Liberty) and two extra-inning games to VOL teams (Kimball). We’re right there.”
Manteca 4, Ceres 1
CERES — Nate Gutierrez sparked the Buffaloes (4-3) offensively, going 3 for 3 with a double, two RBIs and two steals. Zach Todd finished 2 for 2 with a double and two runs.
Starting pitcher Sonny Elder logged three innings of work, while Quino Gurolla struck out three over two shutout innings in relief.
East Union 16, Calaveras 1 (5)
Freshman Ashton Heath went 2 for 2 with two runs and a RBI, as the red-hot Lancers (4-0) rolled to a fourth straight mercy-shortened win at Agostini Field.
Heath ignited East Union’s eight-run fourth inning with a leadoff double and wound up on third on a throwing error. The Lancers had already led 8-1 after three.
Carlos Alvarez went the distance from the mount, striking out six while surrendering three hits and two walks.
Chavez 11, Weston Ranch 1
Elijah Galindo fired 10 strikeouts and twirled a two-hitter for the visiting Titans (2-4), who plated their final three insurance runs in the seventh.
Weston Ranch (1-5) scored its lone run in the fifth. Dustin Tinsley pitched four innings for the Cougars.
East Union 9, Bear Creek 4
STOCKTON — Leadoff batter Ace Avelar walked on his first four plate appearances and plated three runs on Monday. He was able to finish the outing with a RBI single in the seventh.
Justin Severson (double, two RBIs), Noah Calmes (2 for 2, two RBIs, two walks) and Nick Ridgewell (2 for 2, three walks, double, two RBIs) also had big hits. Calmes was the winning pitcher, and Tyler Toste locked down the save for the Lancers (4-0).