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Ripon Christian takes section title
First section baseball  banner for Knights
Ripon Christian high baseball players celebrate winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI baseball championship on Monday. - photo by Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER

STOCKTON – Six outs away from the end of a very long, disappointing day Monday, Jadon Vander Molen helped the Ripon Christian make history when he ripped a bases-clearing triple and came around to score on an error during the play in the bottom of the sixth to give the Knights a one-run lead over Bradshaw Christian of Sacramento. Stellar defense in the top of the seventh cemented the 8-7 win to give Ripon Christian the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship, the first blue banner in program history. 

The win was made even sweeter as the Pride had hammered the Knights 16-5 to start the day, forcing the winner-take-all game at Pacific’s Klein Family Field.  

 Vander Molen finished 3 for 4 with five RBI, a triple and two runs.

 “Coach told us before the inning to put up a crooked number,” Vander Molen said. “We got runners on and I had to do my job. I was coming around second and thought I was going to get a triple out of it and I was about to dive in when coach kept waving me.

 “I thought I was going to trip after rounding third because originally I was going to slide. I just had to concentrate on keeping my feet under me. In the end, you can’t even describe the feeling. It’s just awesome.”

After catching for 12 innings over the two games, Ian Vrieling came on to pitch the seventh. With a runner on second and one out, Bradshaw Christian leadoff batter Britton Wheatley ripped a screaming line drive to second baseman Caleb Terpsma who fielded the shot for the second out and doubled up the runner on second to end the game.   

“I saw it at me and I just concentrated on keeping it in front of me,” Terpsma said. “Right when it came at me I thought it could be the game-ender. I just trusted my instincts and tried to make the play as best I could.”

Vrieling came on in relief of Nolan Lingley (2 for 2, three runs, two walks) who was called into action in the second inning to replace Willem Hoekstra who became injured. 

“Coach came up to me earlier in the game and told me to be ready,” Vrieling said. “But I have only been pitching in practice – I haven’t pitched in 14 games. But coach asked me if I was his guy, and I told him yes.

“As soon as that last ball came off of the bat, I thought I was going to throw up. I closed my eyes and then turned around and saw it was in Terpsma’s mitt. I hollered at him to double the guy off second and he did to end the game.”

Hoekstra lasted 1.2 innings before leaving the hill. 

  “My elbow started to get sore the second inning,” Hoekstra said. “The first pitch I threw in I felt something pop. I told coach and that’s when he pulled me out.”

Hoekstra (2 for 4, triple, run) gave the Knights some hope at the plate in the sixth inning when he laced a lead-off triple can scored on a double by Dale Fisher (2 for 4, two RBI, two doubles);

“I finally got my timing down and hit one off the wall,” Hoekstra said.

 With only 12 players on his roaster, Ripon Christian coach John De Visser had his hands full.

“Not only did my best pitcher go out in the second inning because he thought he blew his elbow out, I had to piece it together because I had guys going out with cramps and hamstrings,” De Visser said. “We were down to 10 guys at the end. 

“Lingley gutted it out. By the end of the sixth his entire body was seized up. And then I had to throw Ian Vrielng. He had just caught 12 innings and he hadn’t pitched since the beginning of the season.”

De Visser’s instructions to Vrieling were simple.

“I told him to just give me one inning, give me everything you have for just one — we would figure it out,” De Visser said. “He was so tired from catching he couldn’t throw anything but the fast ball. I told him just to throw strikes and we would see what happened. 

“It’s been 10 years, 10 years of grinding and nine years of crying. To finally be able to do this and have the alumni around as well as the parents who have been here since the beginning was just awesome. I am so happy for the kids and to finally get one for this program. The alumni were crying right along with us because we have been trying for this thing for so long.”  

The first contest is one the Knights would like to forget. Beset by multiple miscues and five errors, Ripon Christian never led but managed to come within 5-4 after three innings. Bradshaw Christian (18-11) put up eight runs in the next two innings before closing it out with the mercy rule win. 

 The big inning for the Knights was their four-run fourth. Lingley (2 for 4, double, triple, two runs) led off the frame with a double followed by a walk to Vander Molen (2 for 3, RBI, run) and a single by Hoekstra to load the bases.

Fisher (2 for 2, RBI, run) singled in Lingley with Vander Molen and Hoekstra scoring on sacrifice flies by Declan Van Vuren and Brock Nunes, respectively, and Fisher came around to score on an error.   

 “I was so happy we were not in a position where we had to win Game 1,” De Visser said. “Because we are so young and we had to get it out of our system. I had a feeling some of the young kids were going to be a little bit nervous and we came out and acted like it.

“We finally settled down between games – we were running around throwing grapes in each other’s mouth trying to calm down, and once we got settled it was fine.”