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Koch twirls 2-hitter in pitchers duel
Ripon Christian’s Wes Lown takes his lead off first base as Ripon High pitcher Hayden Koch gets the sign Monday. Wes Lown started on the hill for RC in what was a pitchers’ duel won by Koch and the visiting Indians, 4-1. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
RIPON — Realignment has rendered the Ripon-Ripon Christian baseball rivalry meaningless in terms of conference and playoff implications.

But both clubs played with purpose in Monday’s non-league contest at Ripon Christian, a rematch of last Wednesday’s 7-2 victory for Ripon.

Led by starter Hayden Koch’s two-hit gem, the visiting Indians completed the preseason sweep, 4-1, in a well-played game.

“It’s still a crosstown rivalry,” Koch said. “We want to come out here and beat them.”

Koch threw just 85 pitches, striking out six and walking three. His ERA stands at 0.98 in 14 1/3 innings of work. In the Indians’ first outing against Ripon Christian, Koch fanned 13 batters.

“All I was trying to do was throw strikes,” Koch said. “I know the defense will make the plays for me. As long as I throw strikes they can’t hurt us.”

Ripon (4-1) took its first lead in the opening inning when leadoff batter Cesar Nuno walked and was later driven home on a fielder’s choice by Sam Van Vuren (2 for 3, run).

The score stood at 1-0 until RC tied it in the fifth on Elijah English’s groundball single to left, but Ripon scratched across three in the top of the seventh.

Van Vuren started the rally with a single to center, stole second and reached third when pitcher Wes Lown threw it away on a pickoff attempt. Koch drove in the go-ahead run with a fielder’s choice.

Ryan Durrer later cracked a two-run, line-drive single to center for the insurance.

“It’s about perseverance sometimes in this game,” Ripon coach Mitchell Evans said. “You can go six innings and do nothing and you need is one inning of work.

“We were really fortunate to have a few (hits) fall in for us. All game long we were hitting, but it seemed like they were right there to make the play.”

Ripon Christian (0-3-1) was much sharper in the rematch. A lot of that had to do with senior Wes Lown, who, like Koch, also threw 85 pitches in a complete-game effort (3 earned runs, 3 hits, 3 strikeouts, walk).

“It’s starting pitching. It’s cliché, but it’s a cliché because it’s right all the time,” said RC coach John De Visser. “When you have a guy out there throwing strikes, making guys swing the sticks and the defense makes plays you’re going to be in every game. Last time we didn’t get a very good start.”

Ripon Christian, to its credit, was competitive considering the disparity in experience between the rival clubs.

Ripon returns 10 seniors, while RC graduated nine last year.

With no sophomore team, RC’s varsity is forced to bring up five underclassmen. Aaron Fay and English are the lone returning seniors who started last year, but Fay — a starter since he was a freshman — is playing for the school’s NorCal-qualifying basketball team.

“The progress we have made since that last Ripon game is incredible,” De Visser said. “This was an actual baseball game. It was a fun day. There weren’t a lot of mistakes on either side. It was just a good baseball game that we came out on the wrong side of.”

McNair 8, Weston Ranch 0

At McNair, Weston Ranch (0-2-1) was held to just two hits (Elias Venegas, Kevin Haruta) while the host Eagles doled out 11.

James Simerly and Akiha Etu combined to strikeout eight for the Cougars, who next host first-year varsity Liberty Ranch of Galt Wednesday.

Weston Ranch won the sophomore game, 25-0. Cody Simerly and Thomas Cornell led the hit parade.