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Robisons hit gives Indians inside track
BASE Ripon-Orestimba 2
Josh Clark tripled and scored the eventual game-winning run on a sacrifice fly in the sixth during Ripons 3-2 victory over Orestimba on Wednesday. - photo by JAMES BURNS/The Bulletin

RIPON – All week long, the talk around the Ripon baseball facility had centered on Tanner Pruett’s looping curve ball.

Skipper Jon Manrique and his staff even went as far as to invite in left-handed pitchers to simulate the Orestimba ace’s breaking pitch.

All that talk, all that action and wouldn’t you know it – Wednesday’s showdown between Trans-Valley League leaders changed on a fastball.

Luke Robison hammered a Pruett heater for a two-run double and Caleb Rogers survived a rocky seventh inning as Ripon took a giant leap toward a TVL title with a 3-2 victory.

Josh Clark tripled and scored the eventual game-winning run on Angelo Baciocco’s sacrifice in the sixth for the Indians, who are peaking at just the right time.

Ripon has won eight of its last nine games, including three straight.

“This is great for us. If we get four wins, we can win league,” Robison said. “Just beating (Pruett) is good because he’s a tough pitcher.

“We wanted to come out with a high intensity and play our game the best we could. ... We’re on a roll right now and I think we’ll keep with it.”

Robison’s knock was one of only three hits surrendered by Pruett, who went the distance in the loss. The TVL’s win leader struck out seven, including the first three batters he faced, but his control wavered as the game stretched on.

Pruett had walked just nine batters all season. On Wednesday, he issued a season-high five free passes as the Indians made him labor on the season’s hottest day.

By the time Robison stepped to the dish in the fourth, Pruett had plunked Zach Horwood and walked Trent Murphy, all with two outs.

The diminutive junior said he was hunting for a fastball in a sea of curves.

“We knew that he threw a lot of curve balls,” Robison said, “so we were hunting fastballs up there. If he threw one, we were going to hit it.”

Robison did just that, chasing home Horwood and Murphy with his fourth double of the season.

Manrique said he’s been waiting for a big hit like that from Robison, who has shuffled up and down the Indians’ batting order this season.

“He’s been in funk as of late. He’s struggled and been down. But we’ve told him it takes only one time,” Manrique said. “We knew he would break out sooner than later, and sure enough, it happened in the biggest moment of the biggest (game).

“The double in the gap, we couldn’t have asked for more. That’s what he had been doing and that’s what we expect from him.”

The victory gives the Indians (7-2, 13-7-1) the inside track to the TVL championship with three games to play. Ripon travels to Orestimba (6-3, 13-5) on Friday before beginning a final TVL series with Hilmar next week.

Wednesday’s win means Ripon controls its own destiny, as Orestimba faces fellow TVL frontrunner Hughson (6-2, 14-5) next week.

“We struggled at the beginning of the year, but we’ve come on strong. It all started with league play,” said Manrique, whose team went 3-1 against Division-I programs at the Dick Windemuth Tournament over Easter break.

“...You could see the boys’ confidence was sky high. I knew going into this game it would be a test but I knew they were up to challenge and they stepped up big today.”

Orestimba nearly changed the storyline with a two-run rally in the seventh inning.

Steven Machado scored on an RBI single by Devin Perry, who would score one batter later on Austin Martins’ base hit to right field.

With the tying run on second, Orestimba’s best hitter dug into the box against Indians starter Caleb Rogers. Mar had singled twice off Rogers.

Manrique had Brandon Scott warmed up and loose in the bullpen, but chose to stay with Rogers in that situation.

“We have total confidence in Rogers. Caleb has how own leash; he goes for as long as he wants,” Manrique said. “It usually takes a look ... a look like I got this. Today, he still had it.”

Rogers got Mar to groundout to short to cap the Indians’ biggest win of the season. The senior captain gave up two runs on seven hits, while striking out three.

Valley Oak League

Sierra 7, Sonora 4

Leo Soto and Jacob Vaughan highlighted a three-run seventh with RBI singles and Ryan Vasquez pitched three scoreless innings in relief for the Timberwolves (10-1, 18-3). Jake Pruitt went 2 for 3 with two RBIs.