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Ripon Christian forces ‘if’ game
Crivello shines in long relief in SJS semifinal with Woodland Christian
Woodland Christian-Ripon Christian baseball
Ripon Christian’s Grant Sonke scores as Woodland Christian’s Ethan Howald chases the ball. GARY JENSEN/

When Ripon Christian’s Luke Crivello woke up Wednesday morning, he was looking forward to playing second base for the third-seeded Knights in a must-win game against No. 2 Woodland Christian in the second game of the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII baseball playoffs at Ripon Christian.

By the time the first inning ended, Crivello found himself on the mound after starting pitcher Dustin Hoekstra had to leave due to an injury. Crivello lasted into the seventh inning of an 11-3 win for the Knights, avenging a 10-run loss Monday to the Cardinals and setting up a winner-take-all game today in Woodland.  

“All of a sudden I had to get locked in and I had to get to work,” Crivello said. “I had to be ready for whatever came my way.

“I was feeling really good. My arm felt really loose but I got a little tired toward the end.”

This was déjà vu for Ripon Christian coach Jon de Visser.

“We had to pick up (Dustin) Hoekstra who went down in the first inning,” de Visser said. “This was just like the 2018 section final game when sophomore Nolan Lingley had to come in for the older (Willem) Hoekstra who went down in the second inning of that game and today he (Willem Hoekstra) is my pitching coach.

“And we had another must-win game today and the junior comes in. That is the most pitches he has thrown all year. He absolutely pounded the strike zone and kept them off balance all day. An unbelievable job. We had to win today, but we had to be mindful that we have a game again Thursday. So anybody I brought out of the pen had to do their job, fill up the zone and get us in here.”

The Knights (20-7) used small ball to break the game open in the fourth. Leading off the frame, No. 9 batter Logan Sauer (2 for 3, two runs) hit a short fly to right and beat the throw to first by less than a step.

Grant Sonke (2 for 3, RBI, run) and Justin Severson (two runs) bunted their way on and Eli Terpsma (4 for 4, three RBI, four runs) singled in Sauer and Sonke and Ripon Christian was off and running.  

“I didn’t have a great game a couple of days ago,” Terpsma said. “I made some good contact, but I got out.

“In practice Tuesday I was focusing on center-right-field approach and not letting anything get into my head and I guess it worked.”

Woodland Christian (21-4) loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning when Severson fielded a screaming grounder at third, stepped on the bag and fired to first for the inning-ending double play.

“I just felt good today,” Severson said. “I have been feeling good all season

“I knew I had a chance on that double play so I did it.”

Crivello took the mound with one out and one on in the first. He gave up a two-run home run to Wyatt Bickell and then not another run until the fifth inning. He struck out six while giving up two hits and walking six.

Crivello got out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth with a two-out pop-up to second, but when he loaded the bases with one out in the seventh de Visser called in the catcher Josh Buffalow to relieve Crivello. Buffalow struck out the first batter he faced and induced a fly to center to end the game.

“I was thinking that Luke pitched his butt off all day,” Buffalow said. “As the catcher, I had to pick him up. We love each other and I just knew that when I went out there I had to do my job and pick him up.”

All told, the Cardinals loaded the bases three times and pocketed no runs to show for it.

“With a team that can swing like they do,” de Visser said. “When you get bases juiced all of a sudden they can put up a crooked number. You don’t want this thing to matter in the seventh. If they would have put up three or four in the sixth and then we don’t score, things would get a little hairy because you don’t want the tying run at the plate with those guys.

“I can’t say enough about my defense today. Justin Severson made not only that double play but he made a scorching play on a drop step. He didn’t have a single error in league. He is an absolute gold-glover over there and is the best defensive third baseman I have ever had. And Eli (Terpsma) was being Eli. He was 4 for 4 with four runs and three RBI all while playing a great shortstop and running the defense out there. Buffalow called a great game behind the dish, blocking everything.”

Today’s game starts at 4 p.m. at Woodland Christian.

“Coming from Monday when we absolutely got throttled,” de Visser said. “We get 10-runned and we don’t even make it to the seventh. To bounce back and play and be able to play as well as we did today after what happened Monday is a testament to the character of this squad. This gives them at least one more day together.”