WOODLAND – In years past, John De Visser has played his cards close to his chest with Woodland Christian, refusing to throw his top pitchers against a perennial playoff team.
The Ripon Christian skipper never wanted to reveal too much.
However, a soft Southern League schedule this spring has softened his stance.
De Visser used sophomore ace 1A Connor McGovern in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at Woodland Christian and plans to throw sophomore ace 1B Travis Vander Molen today as the Knights complete the home-and-home series.
“We’ve never thrown anybody against them, but this year we needed to get some games in because the last couple of weeks have been tough for us. I want my pitchers to see quality hitters, one through nine,” De Visser said, referring to a Southern League with few challengers.
The Knights are 9-1 in league play and rode a seven-game winning streak into Wednesday’s non-league game. During that stretch, Ripon Christian had wins of 8-0, 16-0, 25-0 and 33-1.
Those decisions forced De Visser’s hand. The result was a game played amid a playoff atmosphere. Woodland Christian countered with their ace, Cameron Morrow.
“I thought we played exceptional baseball today,” De Visser said. “We just didn’t come out on top.”
Woodland Christian chased McGovern in the fifth with a two-run rally and then scored the game-winner in the bottom of the seventh.
David Henderson shouldered the load offensively for the Knights, now 10-6.
Henderson hit a solo home run over the left-field fence in the first inning to give Ripon Christian a 1-0 lead.
“That home run wasn’t cheap,” De Visser said. “He cleared the fence by 30 feet. He got it – and he got it good.”
Henderson later tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the seventh inning with a double. The knock chased home Jake Groshong, pinch-running for Lukas Vermeulen.
“It was a heck of a baseball game,” De Visser said. “They executed till the end and we didn’t, and they beat us.”
The two tangle again today at Ripon Christian. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.