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Ripon slugs Hilmar for playoff bid
BASE--Hilmar-Ripon 1
With Hilmars Aaron Pfitzer running to third base, Ripon infielder Luke Robison makes a sliding grab before making the final out in the top of the third inning. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

RIPON — Ripon nearly went from clinching a share of the Trans-Valley League championship to missing the postseason entirely in a one-week span.

Coming off consecutive losses that knocked them out of title contention, the Indians righted the ship just in time to clinch a Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoff berth with Wednesday’s 15-5, six-inning rout of Hilmar.

After being held to a single run in road losses to Orestimba and Hilmar, Ripon (8-4 TVL, 14-9-1 overall) broke out in a big way in its rematch with the Yellow Jackets (7-4, 12-8-1), another one of the four teams vying for a section bid. The Indians scored in every inning but the second and drilled 13 total hits. They also capitalized on five walks, three hit batsmen and six errors.

Third-year senior Caleb Rogers (2 for 4, two doubles) said the team was able to play freely and without the weight of the pressure surrounding the regular-season finale.

“Honestly, we were all real relaxed,” he said. “We were kind of like, ‘Let’s just enjoy baseball again,’ you know? I think that had something to do with it.”

It was Rogers’ RBI double to center field that enforced the mercy rule with one out in the bottom of the sixth. He knocked home Michael Ysit, a fitting ending considering it was he who sparked the club early.

With Hilmar leading 1-0, Ysit led off the home half of the opening frame with the first of his three doubles to the left-center gap. That jump started a five-run rally that included a two-run single up the middle from Zach Horwood and a two-run double from Nick Price (three runs).

In the fourth Ysit broke it open with a bases-clearing shot that gave the Indians an 11-4 lead.

“I hadn’t been hitting all that well leading up to this week,” Ysit said. “I just put in more work in the (batting) cage and switched bats and so far it’s working out.”

Trent Murphy (2 for 4, two runs), Angelo Baciocco (2 for 4, two runs, RBI) and Luke Robison (2 for 3, run, RBI) each contributed two hits.

Winning pitcher Brandon Scott logged 3 2/3 innings in relief, giving up one earned run on two hits while striking out four. He relieved Murphy with one out and the bases loaded in the third and did well to limit the damage after giving up a two-RBI hit to Aaron Pfitzer.

“Murphy has done great for us all year, and today he had the right demeanor out there but he we were giving up too many free bases (four walks, one hit batter),” said first-year head coach Jon Manrique. “Fortunately we have Scott on the bench and he does a great job for us.  He throws hard with good (velocity) and so we decided that we’d bring him in.

“Granted, he gave up a hit right off the bat, but Scott shut them down pretty well after that. I’m really happy with what he did. It’s hard for some guys to come off the bench but he showed composure.”

With Hughson annexing full control of the TVL crown, Ripon ends up in a two-way tie for second place with Escalon. Having swept Escalon, the Indians own the head-to-head tiebreaker and is the league’s No. 2 seed. They will open postseason play next Thursday, May 15 against Mother Lode League No. 2 Argonaut (17-7) at Stockton’s Billy Hebert Field. It will be a rematch of their March 8 nonleague affair won by Argonaut, 3-2.

“We wanted a piece of the TVL; I’m not going to lie to you,” Manrique said. “Our seniors, I felt, deserved it. But at the end of the day you have to finish games and take care of business.

“To make it to the playoffs, even if we just crept in, it still gives us a shot. That’s the main goal is to have a shot at sections and we’re still in the hunt for a title.”