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Ripon Christian clobbers SRC in Division VII championship
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STOCKTON — Katie O’Leary homered for top-seeded Ripon Christian and Elizabeth Thomas ripped a pair of RBI doubles as the Knights hammered No. 3 Stone Ridge Christian of Merced 13-3 Wednesday in a six-inning mercy-shortened contest for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII championship at Arnaiz Field.
It’s the first blue banner in program history for RC.
After getting intentionally walked in the first inning, O’Leary led off third with a home run to make the score 4-0, her second in as many nights. She reached base and scored four times, getting hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth and reaching in the sixth when her hard-hit ball to first could not be handled.
“I was in a groove,” O’Leary said. “Like on Tuesday, I saw it and I hit it. There was really nothing special about that pitch or that swing.”
A pair of errors by Ripon Christian (22-7) before the first out of the sixth inning helped Stone Ridge Christian (19-7) plate three runs to come within 9-3 before Ripon Christian pitcher Madison DeGraaf got the last two outs on a strikeout and a pop-up to O’Leary at short.
“In that one inning, everything was getting to me and it shouldn’t have,” DeGraaf said. “I fought through that and my defense helped me out at the end.”
DeGraaf tallied four strikeouts and allowed four hits with no earned runs.
“DeGraaf was awesome,” Ripon Christian coach Lenny Rizzutto said. “She threw almost every game for us.
“I could tell she was getting a little tired at the end and we talked to her about reaching down deep and gutting it out and doing what she had to do and she did just that. She is an awesome pitcher and she is going to be good for the next three years.”
DeGraaf tallied two of her three RBI in the sixth inning when she singled in O’Leary and Elizabeth Thomas to make the score 12-3. She got her other RBI on a bases-loaded walk in the first, forcing in Ariel Vander Woude.
“Before that last at-bat, I hadn’t been hitting well,” DeGraaf said. “I wanted to be sure and get the ball in play to score those two runs.”
Batting out of the No. 9 hole, Nikki Berghorst was 2 for 4 with two RBI, including an RBI single to right to score Morgan Van Elderen in the sixth-inning to give Ripon Christian a 10-run lead and end the game via the mercy rule.
“It felt amazing,” Berghorst said of her game-ending hit. “On my way up to the plate I envisioned myself doing that and it came to be.”
Thomas was 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI, and although she is a freshman she is no stranger to the Ripon Christian softball program. 
“It is amazing to see how far this team has come,” Thomas said. “When my sister played (2012) R.C. was struggling and we have really come a long way.
“We have put a lot of work in together. It is well-deserved especially for Emily (Van Vliet), Katie (O’Leary) and Nikki (Berghorst) who had to tough it out to get here.”
VanVliet and O’Leary are seniors, Berghorst is a junior and of the 10 remaining roster spots, nine are occupied by freshmen.
Rizzutto had to remind his girls to lay off the high ones.
“On Tuesday, we were chasing those high riseballs,” Rizzutto said. “Today the game plan was to lay off them, make her come into the zone and then attack the zone.
“They have great 2-3-4 hitters, and our plan there was to play deep on them, give them singles all day long, and make them have someone else beat us.”
Rizzutto is pleased with his team’s effort and its character.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Rizzutto said. “They are a great bunch of kids and they work hard.
“Winning that banner hasn’t even sunk in yet. It’s just awesome.”