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Ripon Christian cruises to win behind De Vries nine strikeouts
Ripon Christian ace Robbie DeVries releases the pitch toward Hughson hitter Tyler Moreno in the top of the third inning of Friday’s Trans Valley League opener. DeVries fired nine strikeouts while walking five and allowing just one hit in five innings. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
RIPON – Robbie De Vries took the mound in Ripon Christian’s home opener and provided a masterful performance, going five innings and holding Hughson to one hit in a 4-1 Trans Valley League win Friday.

The Knights (1-0, 3-3 overall) looked to be headed for a low-scoring pitchers duel after Hughson starter Jason Meyer sat Ripon Christian’s first three hitters down in order. His luck would change in the second inning, as a walk, an error and a towering home run from Arie den Dulk gave De Vries all the cushion he would need.

After walking the first two batters he faced, De Vries would get six of the next eight outs by strikeout. He started out nine of the first 10 hitters with strikes, putting himself in position to get batter’s out.

“You have to pitch ahead, you just have to get strike one or you’re pitching behind for the whole count,” Ripon Christian head coach John De Visser said. “When you start 1-0 then you get to 1-1, you have to fight back to get to 1-2.

“You are always one pitch away from being 2-1, and we want to be very aggressive early.”

Hughson had no answer for De Vries, getting an RBI single from Jose Lopez for their lone hit of the ball game. De Vries walked five in the contest, helping lead to Hughson’s only run.  He would finish with nine strikeouts, before giving way to a Knights bullpen that was rock solid.

“We can pitch,” De Visser said of his pitching staff. “I’ve got four guys that can really throw. You don’t have a sub-1 team (earned run average) with doing things wrong.

“We’re around the strike zone; we’ve got guys that like to pitch ahead, and we’ve been doing a good job of putting away hitters.”

Clayton Prins had a solid outing offensively, collecting two walks and a base hit and scoring Ripon Christian’s first run. Prins also swiped a bag and added the Knights’ final run in the bottom half of the fourth. Den Dulk finished with the home run in three plate appearances, getting free-passes in the two at-bat’s following the homer.

The Knights were happy with the league-opening win, but will have to clean up some areas offensively, especially on the base paths, if they plan to push for a Sac-Joaquin Section postseason berth.

“Most of those were mental mistakes,” De Visser said. “I think we missed at least six or seven signs, all on the base paths. It’s something that we’re going to have to work on. I thought we had it shored up with a simpler sign set, but we’ll get it fixed.

“The guys understand how important it is to not give away outs in the TVL.”

Modesto Christian 6, Ripon 3
SALIDA – The Indians could not solve Modesto Christian lefty Nathan O’Leary, mustering up just two hits to go along with 14 strikeouts in a TVL loss Friday.

“He worked quick and he worked tough,” Ripon head coach Mitch Evans said. “He threw hard and he hit his spots and we only ended up getting two hits off him.”

Jake McCreath and Ryan Durrer both got hits, with McCreath going 1 for 2 and Durrer 1 for 3. Both came around to plate a run in the loss.

The Indians will have to put the TVL opening loss behind them quickly, with an encounter with crosstown nemesis Ripon Christian scheduled for Wednesday.

— Jagada Chambers