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Molthen, Ripon 3-hits Escalon in TVL opener
Escalon-Ripon baseball
Ripon's Branden Molthen went the distance, striking out three and allowing three hits. GARY JENSEN/

Ripon’s Branden Molthen went the distance on the hill Friday, limiting visiting Escalon to just three hits for the complete-game shutout in a 6-0 Indians win to start the Trans-Valley League baseball season at Mistlin Sports Complex.

“On the mound, I was just keeping it free and easy,” Molthen said. “I let them get themselves out because I only got four Ks. I was letting the defense work.”

Molthen was not content dominating on the mound – he owned the plate as well, leading a 12-hit parade for Ripon (1-0 TVL, 6-2 overall) with a 3-for-3 effort, notching an RBI double, stealing a base and scoring a run.

“I know their pitcher and he’s a great guy,” Molthen said. “And I was just trying to see the ball out of his hand.

“I was seeing it really well. You have to let it travel and see it deep in the box to go opposite field. That’s what we did well today. David (Madera) did it especially well.”

Madera was 2 for 3 with the hit of the day – an inside-the-park home run to the opposite field. With one out and a runner on in the second inning, Madera launched a towering fly ball behind the right fielder. It went in and out of his glove and then he fell down, allowing Madera to stretch his triple into a home run.

“That felt good,” Madera said. “I just kept running and looked at my third-base coach because if you look at the ball you mess up.”  

Madera’s shot made the score 3-0. The Indians added two more in the third on a pair of RBI singles by Nate Dorn (2 for 3, RBI, run) and Damian Sandoval (2 for 3, RBI), scoring Molthen and Dorn. Molthen and Dorn both scored second in the frame for two of five stolen bases for Ripon.

Dawson Downs plated Isaac Sandoval in the sixth inning for the Indians to put the exclamation point on that 12-hit parade.

“A win is a good way to start off league,” Ripon coach Bobby Swedberg said. “I thought we hit the ball well at times but we left a lot of opportunities out there.

“Some of our hitters had good approaches and it paid off today. We got a lot of balls in the gap and when we get on base we have some speed out there. And Molthen threw a great game. They didn’t have many opportunities to score because he limited the damage.”

J.P. Lial reached for the Cougars (0-1, 1-5) on a one-out throwing error in the fifth inning and was advanced to third on Cameron Ruiz’s double giving Escalon runners on second and third with one out. Molthen induced a flyout and groundout to first to end the frame.  

Colten Page doubled for Escalon in the seventh but ended the game stranded on third base.

The two teams play again Friday in Escalon at 4 p.m.