With age comes wisdom, and in the case of long-time Ripon softball coach Robert Vernon, maybe a little ESP as well.
With Escalon leading the host Indians by a run going into the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday, Ripon had leadoff batter Rhylee Magazinovic coming up followed by Caitlynn Campbell. Vernon told his staff that Magazinovic would get on and Campbell would hit it out of the park and that is exactly what happened, giving the Indians a thrilling 8-7 walk-off win to remain undefeated in Trans-Valley League softball play.
“This was a typical Escalon-Ripon game,” Vernon said. “We jumped on top and then it was see-saw.
“I told our guys that I thought we could scratch out a couple of runs in that last inning. I said Rhylee would get a hit and Caitlyn would hit a bomb. I swear to God I did. And sure enough she barreled it up, and all I saw was everyone walking off the field. I didn’t even watch it. It was gone.”
In her last at-bat before the walk-off, Campbell (2 for 4, double, home run, double, three RBI, two runs) doubled in Magazinovic (4 for 4, double, three runs, three stolen bases) to draw Ripon (6-0 TVL, 10-2 overall) within 7-5 in the fifth inning. Alana Hernandez homered to lead off the sixth for the Indians cutting the deficit to one run.
“This is our game plan with our leadoff batter and I,” Campbell said. “Whenever she gets on I take that first pitch and she steals second. And then I wait until I get my pitch. I got two rise balls which she had been throwing at me all day and then she threw me my pitch – a curve out – and I just swung as hard as I could. I really focused on staying on top of the ball and then getting behind it and that’s what I did.
“It felt really great to come back. I personally wanted to win this game so bad because it’s my senior year and this is our rivalry game and I kept stressing that to the underclassmen that this was a really big game and we needed to do what we could. In that last inning before Rhylee Mags and I went up to bat I told them that we could still win this game, but we had to fight for it and dig deep. And that’s what we did.”
Magazinovic doubled and scored to start the game and she wasted little time getting on in the seventh, belting the first pitch into center for a single before stealing second.
“She had been throwing me that same pitch every at-bat,” Magazinovic said. “And I thought that then would be the best time to hit it.
“This was a very big game for Ripon, and Escalon too. “Going into it I was very nervous; probably more nervous than any other games we have had so far. We had a rough couple of innings and then we pulled our heads out the last couple of innings and we got it together. I’m very happy for it.”
Mims Caratachea got the first of three Indians home runs with a two-run shot in the second inning. Isabella Racacho led off the frame with an eight-pitch walk and Caratachea continued to be patient at the plate, running the count to 2-2 before hitting the ninth pitch of her at-bat over the right-center field fence.
“I continued to stay calm because I knew my pitch was going to come at me,” Mims said. “And then I let my hands fly and my bat did its job.”
Caratachea went the distance in the circle. While she gave up eight hits, three walks and a hit batter, she used 10 strikeouts to help force the Cougars (3-3, 10-7-1) to strand six runners in scoring position.
“Every time they got a hit or got on, I kind of just let it go by,” Caratachea said. “But I kept it in the back of my mind that there were runners on and I had to stay strong for the team and continue to throw strikes and make the ball move.”
Escalon’s Tulsa Carnes went 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBI and teammate Macie Vickers was 2 for 3 with a double and a run.
Ripon hosts Hughson today at 4 p.m.