The Ripon Christian Knights will get one more shot at clinching the outright Southern League baseball title.
But they’ll have to do it in Mariposa on Thursday.
The Grizzlies (12-1, 18-2 overall) forced the decisive winner-take-all-game with a 6-3 victory Tuesday at RC.
“That’s way it should be – the two top teams playing for the title on the last game of the (regular) season,” Mariposa coach Bruce Vegely said. “It’s good for the league.”
The Knights (12-1, 16-7-1) intend to focus on playing their game.
“We don’t to need to reinvent the wheel. We just have to stay the course and let the process take care of itself,” RC coach John De Visser.
For both teams, execution was the bottom line on this windy day.
“They executed, we didn’t.” De Visser added.
Vegely indicated that the team making the fewest mistakes will usually come out ahead. In this case, he stood correct.
His Grizzlies had to overcome a 3-0 deficit after one inning.
RC scored those runs with the help off three hits and a two-run error by Mariposa.
Travis Vander Molen, who was the Knights’ starting pitcher, got things started by flaring a single to left. Shortstop Chris Saenz laced one to right while catcher Dominic Nelson delivered RBI single, plating Vander Molen. Nelson and Saenz came home on a throwing error at third.
Mariposa responded with a four-run third inning. After stranding a pair of runners to open the game, the Grizzlies didn’t let this opportunity slip away.
Chris Koutsoubos had a lead-off single, moved to second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He came home on Triston Mero’s RBI single. Nick Brocchini and Sam Tucker followed with back-to-back hits. Both scored on a costly two-base error.
In the third, Mariposa tacked on another run. Liam Fieldsted opened with a single and subsequently crossed home on a pair of miscues.
In the sixth, the Grizzlies scored one more time, and had a chance to tack on at least two more. But base-running miscues left RC with a glimmer of hope.
Nelson drew a lead-off walk in the home half of the frame and Josh English followed with a single. Mariposa starting pitcher Noah Fluharty, who lost Michael Myers on a two-out bases loaded walk, worked his way out of the sixth-inning jam with a ground out.
In the seventh, Travis Vander Molen had a one-out single to left. Mariposa secured victory with a pair of groundouts.
RC must now travel to Mariposa for the league title game.
“The pressure is not on us,” said Vegely of his home field advantage. “But we still have to play our game and let the cards fall where they may.”
The Knights are hoping to return the favor. De Visser, for one, has their backs on this one. “I like our team,” he said.