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Ripon avoids upset in 8-inning TVL finale
BB--Ripon-Mountain House pic 3
Ripon clean-up hitter Nick Price follows through on his RBI single in the third inning. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

MOUNTAIN HOUSE — With the outright Trans-Valley League title already clinched, Ripon completed a perfect run Wednesday but had to hold off last-place Mountain House 6-5 in eight innings.

The Indians (12-0, 22-3 overall) will work out the kinks in practice today. Until then they can enjoy their first championship season in 15 years. Senior third baseman Nick Price’s older brother Danny was a freshman on that 2001 club.

“I heard all about it,” Price said. “I’ve been going at this since my freshman year, and it seems like every year we’ve gotten a step closer. I don’t know what we did differently this year, but we finally got over that hump and it’s a great feeling to finally get those numbers on the banner in the gym.”

Mountain House, a first-year varsity squad, made Ripon earn the sweep this week. The Mustangs (1-11, 3-21) took advantage of early errors to stake a 4-1 lead after two innings and didn’t trail until the top of the eighth when Sammy Souza scored on a throwing error. Jack Mayer then knocked in Travis Waara, who reached on an infield single, with a sacrifice fly to right field.

Souza led off the inning with a double after squaring up deep drives that went straight Mountain House center fielder Josh Grande in his previous two at-bats.

“I didn’t change anything,” Souza said. “I just stayed calm, took my time like it’s BP (batting practice) and swung through the ball.”

Mountain House didn’t go away quietly.

Kahleem Johnson drove in Hunter Perugi to close the gap, and the Mustangs had runners in scoring position when Ripon catcher Angelo Baciocco ended the game by tracking down a pop-up near the backstop.

“They’re a young team and they’re going to be good in a couple of years,” Price said. “We were kind of sloppy in the beginning of the game, but there’s something about winning games close like this that mean a little bit more. 

“It brings your confidence up. You can blow out teams by 10 runs and not get any better. Who knows? Maybe this helps us (for the postseason).”

Price finished 2 for 4 and drove in Ripon’s first two runs of the game. Baciocco finished 2 for 5 with an RBI. Andrew Gall, pinch-running for Gabe Calvo (2 for 4), plated the tying run on an error in the sixth inning. Second baseman Logan Elich, one of eight freshman on Mountain House’s roster, did well to keep Mayer’s solidly-hit grounder from reaching the outfield grass with a stopping stop, but he allowed Gall to score when he dropped the ball while popping up off the dirt.

Luke Petker pitched all eight innings for the win and gave up four runs (two unearned) on seven hits, five walks and a hit batter. He also fired six strikeouts.

“Petker has been great for us and so has Mayer,” Ripon coach Jon Manrique said. “We feel pretty good about our chances when either one of them is on the bump. Petker has actually had more complete games this year because we’re closing them out in five (innings), but not only did we not shorten the game today we actually extended it.”

Manrique added that Wednesday’s closer-than-expected win should serve as a “reality check” for his players as they gear up for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs, which begin May 18 at Billy Hebert Field in Stockton. Out-bracket games will be played at home sites on May 16. The section will release brackets today.

“If we’re going to have a bad game, hopefully this was the bad game,” Manrique said. “The boys know what’s ahead of them. We already took care of league and the blue banner is what we’re looking for now.”