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Knights throttle Golden Sierra to advance
BB--Golden Sierra-Ripon Christian pic 1
Ripon Christians Connor McGovern reaches safely on a bunt after a collision with Golden Sierras Zach Gwinnup. - photo by DAVE CAMPBELL/The Bulletin

STOCKTON — Connor McGovern knows how to lay down an exclamation point. 

In No. 2 Ripon Christian’s five-inning 17-0 thrashing of 10th-seeded Golden Sierra-Garden Valley in opening-round Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoff action at Stagg High School on Tuesday, McGovern cleared the bases with a triple to the right-field wall to cap a nine-run third inning. 

“I was a little frustrated from a prior at-bat,” McGovern (2 for 3, three RBI, triple) said of a strikeout in the second inning. “I saw a couple of good pitches and I let them slip by. I swung through two inside fast balls which I really like to hit.

“On the triple I saw another one and I put the bat on it.”

Travis Vander Molen pitched the first four innings for the Knights (21-5), striking out eight and allowing just one hit. Vander Molen faced the minimum as he threw out the only base runner for the Grizzlies (12-13) while trying to steal second. 

“I felt confident with two pitches,” Vander Molen said. “My fast ball and my curve ball. Not too fancy – just tried to attack and keep them off balance.”

Vander Molen was intentionally walked twice and then hit by a pitch before leading off the fourth with a double. 

“It was fun to get to swing finally,” Vander Molen said. “It felt pretty good off the bat.”

After watching a called strike three on a full count to start the game, Ripon Christian leadoff batter Travis Zuidervaart reached base on his next three at-bats on two singles and a walk, finishing 2 for 3 with two RBI and three runs. 

 “I was seeing the ball well today,” Zuidervaart said. “I was seeing balls and strikes and picking the ones I wanted to hit. I was able to hit them hard and they found gaps.”

The Knights showed poise and patience, drawing 11 walks and getting hit twice while watching Golden Sierra commit three errors and throw four wild pitches. Ripon Christian did not make any errors, but the Knights did not have very many chances to do so as only five Grizzlies batters did not strike out. 

Michael Cummins pitched a 1-2-3 fifth for Ripon Christian, striking out two.

“Although most of my guys have been in the playoffs for three years, I have a few guys who have not,” Ripon Christian coach John De Visser said. “I was happy with the guys who had not been in the playoffs and the way they responded to the anxiety that the first playoff game can bring.”

The Knights begin a best-of-three series with No. 3 Woodland Christian on Saturday at noon at Stagg High School.