LODI — Austin Ragsdale is no small-time pitcher on a small-school team.
He had already proven that before shutting down Ripon Christian Monday at Tony Zupo Field, where he led Bradshaw Christian of Sacramento to a 7-0 win and fourth straight Sac-Joaquin Section final-round appearance.
Ragsdale, a 6-foot-3 righty heading to San Jose State, struck out seven and walked none in a five-hit gem. He retired the final five batters he faced, and the last two struck out swinging.
“He’s tough,” Ripon Christian coach John De Visser said. “He’s a Division I player for a reason. If you don’t get a guy like that early and let him settle in forget it. I thought we did a really nice job of competing at-bats throughout the entire game, but he was more hittable earlier in the game than he was later.”
The Pride (23-6) will look to avenge its 2012 Division VII championship loss to Mariposa next Monday, May 17. They previously earned a Division VII title in 2011 and another in Division VI in 2010.
Ripon Christian starter Josh English did well to hold off Bradshaw’s powerful lineup early on, leaving the bases loaded in the first and pitching a perfect second.
Jon Vander Molen led off with a sharp single to right in RC’s first turn at the plate. He was caught stealing second, but the Knights knew right away they could hit Ragsdale.
Doing so was another issue.
“We squared him up, and I know the top of the lineup was seeing the ball really well balls just weren’t dropping,” RC’s Chris Saenz said. “He didn’t overpower us for the most part and we made him work. The ball doesn’t always (bounce) your way sometimes but that’s baseball.”
None of RC’s top six batters struck out. Freshman Travis Vander Molen and Saenz each went 2 for 3, with Jon Vander Molen accounting for the other knock. Travis and Saenz went back-to-back to put two runners on with one out in the fourth and sixth innings.
Ragsdale drove in Bradshaw’s first run in with a two-out single to third, and Josh Criswell broke it open with a bases-clearing double in the fourth. The Pride tacked on its final two runs in the seventh.
Bryant Stone went 3 for 3 with a walk and a run from the top of the Bradshaw Christian lineup. Seth Vandergrift was 3 for 4 with two doubles and two runs.
As accomplished as Bradshaw Christian is among the section’s small schools, its coming-out party came on April 30 when it knocked off annual Division I contender Elk Grove, 5-1.
“That’s a very good team,” De Visser said.
He should know.
His Knights (17-10-1) have played Bradshaw five times in the last two semifinals, winning just once. Ripon Christian has qualified for the postseason four times in the past six years but has yet to reach finale.
“We just can’t get over the hump,” De Visser said. “The program is getting more comfortable being here, but which team is going to be the one that says, ‘I’ve had enough of this, I’m going to work a little bit harder and get over the hump?’”