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Hughson win means Ripon is in
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SALIDA — Mark Whelan didn’t bother to congratulate and thank Hughson coach Bob Etcheverry after the Huskies pulled off a dramatic 7-6 victory over Modesto Christian Friday.

Whelan decided instead to let Hughson, the defending Trans Valley League champion, to celebrate its final triumph of its season.

Whelan’s season, however, isn’t over.

And it’s because of the Huskies.

Whelan’s Ripon Indians and Hughson close out the regular season with 9-6 TVL records, one game ahead of Modesto Christian. But the Indians earned the TVL’s No. 2 Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoff berth because they took two out of three against Hughson.

Ripon needed to sweep Riverbank this week and for Hughson to win two straight against MC to make the playoffs. The window was kept open by rival Ripon Christian (3-12, 7-17 overall), which upset MC 7-4 last Friday, May 1.

“Even though Hughson’s kids didn’t have a chance to go (to the playoffs), they were pretty pumped up after the game,” Whelan said. “I was very happy for them, and I’ll forever be grateful.”

Friday’s back-and-forth battle hit a crescendo on the game’s final play.

Down 7-4 in the bottom of the seventh, Modesto Christian cut the deficit to one and had runners on second and third with two outs. The runner on third bolted for the plate after a wild pitch, but the Hughson catcher quickly recovered the ball and applied the tag for the final out.

Whelan, accompanied by his coaching staff and nearly the entire roster of players, said he kept his urge to celebrate from the stands in check.

“We just went straight to the parking lot, and I said, ‘We’re practicing Saturday,’” Whelan said. “I think we deserve to go the playoffs. Heck, we won eight of our last 11 games.

“We fought our way through a winless preseason when we didn’t have our entire team.”

Ripon (11-11) opens the playoffs with Patterson (9-16), the Western Athletic Conference’s second-seeded club, at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi next Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
— Jonamar Jacinto