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DeVries not perfect but gets job done
Knights cap big week with upset over Escalon
Ripon Christian’s Elijah English makes contact in the sixth to drive in the go-ahead run while reaching on an error against favored Escalon Thursday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
RIPON — Robbie DeVries had quite the act to follow.

Clayton Prins’ perfect game in Ripon Christian’s 3-0 stunner over Modesto Christian Wednesday had area baseball fans hung over from the buzz Thursday when the Knights met traditional powerhouse Escalon.

DeVries’ bid for perfection Thursday against Escalon’s vaunted lineup ended just three pitches in when leadoff hitter Josh Miguel singled off a 0-2 pitch.

He worked his way out of the jam and continued the escape act throughout the Knights’ 4-2 come-from-behind upset of Escalon, which came into the contest 4-0 in Trans Valley League play and 8-1 overall.

Ripon Christian (4-1, 6-4) moves into a two-way tie for the TVL lead. Escalon was coming off a 14-0 drubbing of Ripon Wednesday, and RC was dealt its only conference loss by Ripon, 10-1.

The Knights trailed 2-1 in the sixth but pieced together a three-run rally in the bottom half for the win.
“I was really curious to see how they’d respond to (Wednesday’s) game, and they came out a little tight,” Ripon Christian coach John DeVisser said. “It was really important for us coaches to keep them on an even keel after yesterday.  That’s a tough day to come after.”

DeVries was far from perfect, but all is forgiven considering the opponent. He gave up five hits and four walks while throwing a wild pitch that led to the second of two unearned runs in the fourth inning.

DeVries racked up two of his six strikeouts in the seventh, when Escalon threatened with two runners on and No. 3 slugger Nick Largent at the plate with two outs.

Largent ended up popping out to shallow right field.

“I was pretty nervous,” DeVries said. “I didn’t want him to hit one out, but I just trusted my defense and let them make the play.”

DeVries also got RC out of a jam in the second when Escalon had loaded the bases with one out, striking out one batter and getting the next to fly out to right.

“He did a good job all day of getting ahead, and he threw three pitches for strikes,” DeVisser said. “That helps a lot, and he minimized damage. After that two-run inning we kept them to one runner per inning, and that’s huge against a team that can flat out hit.”

The Knights picked up some needed confidence at the start. Aaron Faye belted a two-out double to right and was driven in by Clayton Prins in the bottom of the first. That was the first run Escalon had given up in league since opening with a 21-1 blowout of Riverbank on March 19.

Ripon Christian had chances to at least tie it in the fourth and fifth when it left a combined three runners stranded in scoring position, but in the sixth the Knights took advantage of their opportunities.

Steve Vander Molen, who went 2 for 3 with a double, led off the inning with a single, and Faye (2 for 2) followed with a well-executed bunt single to put runners on the corners.

Prins’ sacrifice fly to right knotted the score at 2, but Faye was tagged at third on the play for the second out.

Arie den Dulk continued the rally with a double to deep left and plated the go-ahead run after Elijah English reached on a throwing error. Justin Lemoine sent home the insurance run with a single.

“We’ve had that a lot this year with runners in scoring position but we struggled to get them in,” Vander Molen said. “We knew all it would take is a couple of hits to get the runs on the board and put the pressure on them for a change.

“This definitely ratchets up the confidence,” Vander Molen added. “We were coming into this week thinking we have to play loose and with confidence. We knew we could get the job done, and we got some great pitching from Robbie and Clayton.”