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Ripon heads back SJS Division IV semifinals
Naranjo ignites late rally with triple against upset-minded Union Mine
Pioneer-Ripon softball
Ripon’s Addison Naranjo dives headfirst to third base ahead of the throw to Union Mine’s Isabella McMurray. - photo by SEAN KAHLER

 Silenced for five innings on Thursday, Ripon’s bats finally broke through after upset-minded Union Mine landed the first blow in the top of the sixth.

The 11th-seeded Diamondbacks turned to hard-throwing freshman Kaylee Henkel to hold the one-run lead, but No. 3 Ripon was able to respond with a late barrage and a 4-1 win that sends them to a fourth consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal.

The Indians (17-5) scored all of their runs in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff triple from Addison Naranjo and back-to-back RBI singles from Alana Hernandez and Izabelle Spurzem. They tacked on two more on squeeze bunts that resulted in overthrows to first base.

“I think giving up that run really gave us a little spark, a little kick to get started,” Ripon coach Tanner Jordan said. “Once we got out of that inning, there was a total shift in our mindset in the dugout — alright, we’re going to win this right now.

“Addi starts us off with that triple and the energy in the entire dugout just lifted. We just kept it going from there.”

Ripon had trouble getting solid contact against Union Mine starter Madison Matlack but didn’t take long to adjust to the pitching change.

Naranjo worked the count full against Henkel and won the duel with a line-drive shot to right-center field.

“I was looking for the faster pitcher,” Naranjo said. “I was trying to get a groundball base hit, just something to get us started.”

And once she got moving, there was no stopping the speedy Naranjo until she slid headfirst to third base. She was surprised that Jordan signaled for her to keep running after crossing second base.

“I had no idea I was going to go three (bases),” she said. “I thought she was going to cut it off and I was going to have to stop at second.”

Her coach had other plans.

“There was no doubt (it was going to be a triple) with her speed,” Jordan said. “I saw where the ball was and thought, let’s take a chance. Let’s get to third. There was never a doubt in mind that she was going to be safe there.”

Neither team could get untracked offensively in the early going. Union Mine’s Savannah Warman singled in the third for the first hit of the game, and Spurzem doubled in the fourth for Ripon’s first knock.

Hernandez was robbed of an RBI hit in the third inning after Ava Hernandez and Naranjo drew walks. Alana Hernandez belted it deep to the left-center gap, where Union Mine outfielder Isabella McMurray made a leaping grab for the third out.

Other than that, the Indians had no answer for Matlack, who struck out five, walked three and gave up just one hit in five innings.

“She was placing the ball in sports where we were struggling to it and getting corners in the strike zone,” Jordan said. “It took us awhile to adapt. Her location and where she was hitting her spots threw us for a loop.”

San Francisco State signee Kharime Caratachea did her part in the pitchers’ duel, collecting 11 strikeouts with no walks in a four-hitter. She was unfazed after giving up the run.

The El Dorado-based Diamondbacks (9-12) struck with Jennifer Wylie’s triple to deep right that plated Henkel, who singled. Caratachea got out of it with a strikeout and retired all three batters she faced in the seventh with two soft popups and a groundout.

“It was a 0-0 ball game,” Caratachea said. “The one run was really nothing to worry about. We had to score anyway to win. I just thought about doing what I’ve been doing, keep throwing strikes. (The run) happened, so just control what I can control. I knew that my team would have my back.”

Ripon will head to No. 2 Central Catholic (19-7) in Modesto next Tuesday looking to get over the semifinal snide after dropping their last two final-four appearances. The Raiders, who took care of seventh-seeded Los Banos 9-2 on Thursday, are reigning SJS and NorCal champions in Division III.

No. 1 Dixon (18-4) and No. 4 Kimball (14-8) are in the other semifinal. The championship game is set for next Saturday, May 25 at Cosumnes River College.

“I know a lot of girls on that Central Catholic team, and I know they’re really solid,” Caratachea said. “Every team from now on is going to be solid. We just have it in the back of our minds that this could be our last game, so just play with everything that we have.”