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Softball team racks up major awards after ending playoff drought
Ripons now-graduated senior Nicole Kaiser was voted the TVLs Defensive Player of the Year for second year in a row after helping the Indians to their first playoff appearance since 1996. - photo by JOHN-JOEL GRIFFITHS

Ripon’s softball team certainly pitched and played defense this spring.

The Trans-Valley League took notice and voted five of the Indians’ players from this year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff squad to the all-league first team.

Highlighting the list was Ripon’s University of Loyola Marymount-bound senior Nicole Kaiser (Defensive Player of the Year) and freshman hurler Danielle Sperry (Pitcher of the Year).

Kaiser was voted the TVL’s best defensive player for a second season in a row.

Kaiser helped the Indians (9-3 TVL, 19-8 overall) get to the postseason for the first time since 1996. She batted .500 (35 for 70) with 25 RBIs and 19 runs.  Kaiser also tallied 11 doubles and had one home run. But it was her stellar, mistake-free defense that awarded her the league’s top defensive honor, again.

“Nicole getting defensive MVP, she deserved it again,” said Ripon head coach Robert Vernon, who won the TVL’s co-Coach of the Year for a first time along with Escalon coach Art Brooks.

Kaiser (.925 fielding percentage) only made six errors this season and had 33 putouts.

Sperry had five of her 82 total strikeouts on the year during a 4-0 playoff loss against Marysville. Sperry (10-4) gave up 45 runs (26 earned) on 81 hits.

Ripon’s junior third baseman Tiana Chacon was voted to the first team All-TVL team for a second time. Junior first baseman Taylor Vernon was an all-leaguer for a third consecutive year. The Indians’ lead-off hitter, sophomore Darian Vandermaaten, was the fifth Ripon player voted to the first team.

“When I got to the program it was not doing very well,” coach Vernon said. “(Getting to) the playoffs were very special to me and the kids. I’m very proud of our girls that made (All-TVL). I’ve never had this many kids make it, and it’s the product of the success of our season.”

Chacon was a solid piece of the Indians’ infield. She had a .810 fielding percentage with 21 putouts. Chacon also batted .362, had 29 hits and scored 25 runs. She also had 30 RBIs to go with 11 doubles.

Taylor Vernon batted .456 from the dish and had 31 hits and 27 RBIs. Vandermaaten batted .429 from the dish and had 36 hits with seven RBIs. Ripon’s freshman catcher Cara Brown was an honorable mention, as was junior Mackenzie Gauden.

In co-ed tennis, two boys and three girls were voted to the All-TVL first team. Ripon’s Madison Flanders, Savannah Bickle and Shannon Wesley were all honored. Escalon’s Parker Pilati was the MVP, while Riverbank’s Armando Rodriguez was the boys’ most valuable.

Jeremy Parks and Bryce Courtrakis were the other two Indians listed on the first team.

Junior Caleb Rogers, senior Scott Robison and freshman Nick Price highlighted the All-TVL first team for the baseball squad. On the list of honorable mentions were: Josh Clark (junior), Fotios Jordanoglu (senior), Michael Ysit (junior) and Dante Machado (senior).

Ripon’s entire top five group of golfers were named to the All-TVL first team. Nathan Suender, Jack Brierly, Robby Figeroid, Kyle Head and Nick Sharp were each named all-leaguers for their efforts in helping the Indians win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship. Brierly carded an 89 at the sectional tournament to give Indians the title over rival Hilmar by one stroke.

In soccer, Ripon’s Tia Sidtikun, Yvonne Serrano and Zaire Davis were all first team All-TVL standouts. Those three players were key factors on offense, defense and in the net to help Ripon make a playoff appearance in the sectional tournament, where they lost against Central Catholic Modesto.