RIPON — Locked in a battle for second place in the Trans-Valley League on the last day of the league play Wednesday, Ripon and visiting Mountain House were locked in a tie going into the seventh inning when the Mustangs found Lady Luck.
Out of six Mountain House hits in the inning only one was a legitimate hit that landed in the outfield. The other five either snuck out of the infield or blooped in the shallow outfield and yielded seven runs on the way to a 10-3 win for the Mustangs to give Mountain House second place and the Indians third.
“The seventh inning was kind of a microcosm of our season,” Mountain House coach Stephen Gatehouse said. “We were 1-7 in pre-season and 4-21 last year and the kids never quit and they banded together.
“Two kids moved away in the middle of the season and we lost two more to grades, so we had to bring some J.V. guys up. And we just kept playing ball, just like the seventh inning today. I am very proud of the boys.”
With the top of the order up for the Mustangs (10-2 TVL, 14-10) in the seventh, Ripon coach Jon Manrique pulled his infield in only to have that sound strategy backfire.
“In the seventh inning we brought the infield in,” Manrique said. “And we felt pretty good about that. We knew the splitter that (Luke) Petker has works well and we got the ground balls that we needed, but some of them leaked through.
“Then you have that little pop-up in center field, but that’s baseball for you. When Luke came in he was pretty upset and I think he may have thought that he let us down, but he didn’t. He pitched his butt off but the baseball gods just were not with us. We took care of enough business this season to give ourselves a little leeway, but that last inning it just didn’t fall our way.”
After Mountain House took a 3-0 lead following three doubles in the second and third innings, the Indians had some luck of their own in the bottom of the third. John Eicher (2 for 3, run) singled between third and short to start the frame for Ripon (8-4, 16-6-2) with Jack Mayer reaching on a fielder’s choice and Carson Henry (2 for 2, run) beating out a sacrifice-bunt attempt to load the bases with no out.
Jacob Gahm came up next and powered what looked like a solid single to center that took a bad hop over the center-fielder’s head for a bases-clearing triple to tie the game at 3-all.
Julian Saenz and Nick Aguilera (RBI, double) were both 2 for 3 with two runs for the Mustangs. Anthony Wiley (two RBI, double, run) and Jacob Vales (RBI, two runs) were each 2 for 4.
Play-in games for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs are on Monday with playoffs beginning next Wednesday.
“I told the boys it is better to happen today than the playoffs,” Manrique said. “Now we will see where we are seeded — see if we have to play in the play-in game or not.”