WOODLAND — No. 3 Ripon Christian went into the bottom of the seventh inning of the winner-take-all Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII semifinal series finale leading second-seeded Woodland Christian by three runs.
The host Cardinals worked the bases loaded with no outs, and then Knights coach John de Visser called in sophomore left fielder Logan Sauer to close the game out — and close it out he did.
Sauer struck out the first batter he faced, induced a fly ball to center fielder Grant Sonke for the second out before starting pitcher Eli Terpsma fielded the next batter’s offering at shortstop and relayed it to second for the force out to end the game and give Ripon Christian the heart-stopping 8-5 win, sending the Knights to the championship game with top-seeded Turlock Christian on Tuesday night at Islander Field.
“When I got called in from left field to pitch, I was a little scared,” Sauer said. “But I came in there and acted calm, acted like nobody was on and focused on the batter.
“I was nervous going up, but I calmed myself down and took it nice and slow, pitch by pitch, and my defense did the job.”
De Visser was thoroughly impressed with Sauer’s stint on the mound.
“It was just unbelievable,” de Visser said. “I know everyone’s going to be talking about that last inning with the sophomore coming in with the bases juiced and nobody out. It is just unfathomable how well that kid did, to be able to stay that calm and composed.
“Can you imagine being 15 years old and coming into a situation like that with a chance for us to go on? Like I told the guys, there was a reason I kept my glasses on for the post-game speech – because I was getting a little misty-eyed.”
Before coming in to pitch, Sauer fielded a base hit to right with a runner on second and gunned the ball home Josh Buffalow at the plate, hitting Buffalow on the fly. The runner did not try to score.
Ripon Christian (21-7) was beat Monday in the first game of the series in six innings with a 13-3 mercy-rule loss and almost turned the tables completely Wednesday with an 11-3 win, setting up Thursday’s cliffhanger.
“From where we came from Monday to how we bounced back and picked up (Dustin) Hoekstra on Wednesday, saying I am proud does not even do it justice,” de Visser said. “It just doesn’t. I don’t even know what the word is.
“We kept the pressure on them every inning. And when you can keep a defense out there it starts to add up. If you spend hours and hours and hours standing out there in the sun instead of in the shade of your dugout, it adds up. We kept executing every inning. We did a multitude of things on offense that we haven’t done all year. Again, I don’t know what word I want to say but proud is not enough. It’s just not covering it.”
Terpsma (RBI, run) sprinkled six hits over the first five innings, striking out seven and walking four, giving up two earned runs out of the four runs scored on him. Buffalow – another sophomore – pitched into the seventh, giving up an unearned run before yielding to Sauer.
“When we figured out Micah (English) hit 76 pitches on Monday we knew he couldn’t go today,” Terpsma said. “So that meant I had to come out here and do my best to fill his shoes.
“The first couple of innings were a little rough, but at the end of the second and into the third I found my groove and was able to go from there.”
Sonke started the game in center field, relieved Buffalow of his catching duties when Buffalow went in to pitch and returned to center when Buffalow was relieved by Sauer.
With Jeffery Mannini on first, Jordan Sacramento (RBI, double) on second and Wyatt Bickel (two runs) on third with no out for Woodland Christian (21-5) in the seventh, Jacob Huerta laced a line drive to Sonke in center.
Bickel started to break for the plate after tagging up and then thought better of it, and lucky for him he did. Sonke fired a laser to Buffalo at the plate which would have nailed Bickel by 10 feet.
“All that was going through my head on that fly ball was to stay calm,” Sonke said. “And then go one step at a time, first catch the ball and then throw.
“I knew that he was mine and I was not letting that run score.”
Luke Crivello went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run for the Knights and English doubled and scored a run.
The championship game with Turlock Christian begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in Lathrop at Islander Field.