RIPON — In what should have been her last at-bat of her final regular-season home game Friday, Ripon Christian senior Katie O’Leary launched what appeared a two-out two-run blast into the wind over the center-field fence in the third inning for a 10-run lead over visiting Orestimba.
But those runs came off the board after the Warriors coach Randy Richardson complained that the lead runner was assisted by the third base coach, yielding the third out of the inning.
O’Leary did go on to account for two more runs in the fifth, which gave the Knights a 12-2 walk-off mercy win in Southern League action.
“They were running the bases and the lead runner Nicole (Chapman) stopped for a moment for whatever reason, I don’t know,” Ripon Christian coach Lenny Rizzuto said. “The assistant coach thought that maybe Nicole thought the ball was caught so she told Nicole to keep running. The base coach said there was no contact but the umpire must have had a different angle.
“In my opinion, it is not the spirit of the rule which is about physically helping or hindering, say in the case of a turned ankle rounding the bag. Even if she did give her a congratulatory tap, I don’t see how that is helping the runner. The umpire was not going to say a word until the Orestimba coach protested the play.”
O’Leary came up in the fifth with one out, Sarah Brown (three runs) on third and Chapman (3 for 3, two runs) on second. O’Leary (2 for 3, two RBI, double) blasted a towering shot to right field, scoring Brown from third and advancing Chapman to third with the score 11-1.
“This was nostalgic,” O’Leary said of her last regular-season game at home. “But this whole senioritis thing gets you ready to move on.
“That ball (in the fifth inning) was an outside pitch and usually when it goes super high that means you missed it just by a hair. It’s nice to know I was close, but hitting home runs is not my job. My job is to help my team win and that is what I helped do.”
Chapman did not spend much time on third, scooting home on a wild pitch for the walk-off 12-2 win.
“I realized that with one more run we would be able to take this game and put it in the bag,” Chapman said. “It was my chance to help my team out and get us the win.”
Madison DeGraaf (double, RBI) went the distance in the circle for Ripon Christian (9-3 VOL, 16-7 overall), limiting Orestimba (7-5, 10-14) to one earned run and one hit, striking out four while walking none and hitting one. DeGraaf retired the last nine batters she faced with six of those outs being plays at first to Emily Van Vliet who made some tremendous scoops and more than one jump to pull the ball down.
“The last plays that (second baseman) Sarah (Brown) made were phenomenal,” DeGraaf said. “And Emily (Van Vliet) made some great catches at first.”
Brown, Chapman and DeGraaf are three of the seven starting freshmen for the Knights who have nine ninth-graders on the roster, none of whom were alive the last time Ripon Christian went to the playoffs 16 years ago.
“We have nine freshmen on the team,” Rizutto said. “And they are doing a phenomenal job.
“They were coached well even before coming here and they have accepted our coaching very well. They are open to ideas and they really do a good job of taking the things that we teach them and applying them in the game.”
The Knights close out the regular season Monday at Waterford and Tuesday at LeGrand before beginning the playoffs Wednesday, May 17.