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Ripon drubs Manteca in battle of unbeaten
Alana Hernandez flirts with cycle, Katie Rhodes hits inside-the-park HR
Ripon-Manteca softball
Ripon’s Katie Rhodes crosses home plate following an inside-the-park home run. GARY JENSEN/

Ripon’s Alana Hernandez was a single shy of hitting for the cycle in a non-league game Monday at Manteca, as she led a hard-hitting Indians squad to a 6-1 win that handed the host Buffaloes their first loss of the season.

Hernandez (3 for 3, three RBI, walk) got Ripon (3-0) on the board in the first inning when she doubled in Peyton Naranjo, who had reached on a two-out error. In the third inning, Naranjo belted a two-out triple and came in on Hernandez’s home run. Hernandez then laced a two-out triple in the fifth inning and scored on Katie Rhodes’ inside-the-park home run to put the Indians ahead, 5-0.

“Honestly, that home run was a ball,” Hernandez said. “And I lifted it and hit it as far as I could.

“This game was really fun. Everyone was so upbeat the whole time. It was a game that we really weren’t supposed to win, so it was really fun to pull this one off with my teammates.”

Ripon pitcher Mims Caratachea had a bend-but do-not-break philosophy, as Manteca (8-1) left 13 runners on base with eight of those in scoring position. She struck out eight against nine hits with three walks and had a key strikeout to end the third inning with the bases loaded. In the sixth, with runners at the corners and following a pair of two-out errors, she fielded her second screaming grounder of the frame for a putout at first to end the inning.  

“I experiment during travel ball with different pitches to get myself out of jams, because I know it is important that I don’t let it get under my skin,” Caratachea said. “So, today I did my best to jam them, throw around them and allow my defense to make some plays.”

Caratachea led off the sixth with an inside-park home run.

“My home run came off of their second pitcher, and I had to adjust right before the pitch,” Caratachea. “I saw it, I let my hands go and I didn’t even know it was a good hit until I saw my coach wave me around.”

Rhodes reached base three times. In addition to her home run, she was hit by a pitch and reached on an error.

“Right field here is really deep, and they were shifted over,” Rhodes said. “So that’s where I tried to hit it, and then I ran as fast as I could to get around.”

First-year Indians coach Tanner Jordan embraced the underdog role.

“I think a lot of people have overlooked us,” Tanner said. “Manteca is a really good team. Coming into this game I think they were 8-0. We came into with the approach of staying busy and doing what we could to come in and give them a fight, and I think that’s what we did and came away with the win.

“I was very proud of the girls for not backing down. Manteca is a good team, there’s no denying it, but they didn’t back down at all. They came in from the get-go playing hard, and that’s exactly what we needed to do.”

The Buffaloes finally got a timely hit in the fifth inning. Jessica Almeida (3 for 4, double, run) doubled with one out and was singled in by Elon James to make the score 5-1.

Manteca coach Josh Farris was frustrated with his team’s performance.

“That’s by far the worst game we have played all year, for sure,” Farris said. “It was sloppy all the way around, from the first inning on, just sloppy.

“Our energy was low. I don’t know if it’s the Monday blues or whatever, but very, very sloppy today and you can’t do that against a good team like Ripon.”

Weather permitting, the Buffaloes host Millennium of Tracy this afternoon at 4 and Wednesday Ripon kicks off the Trans-Valley League campaign when it hosts Riverbank at 4 p.m.