STOCKTON — Liberty Ranch struck first in the top of the third inning, capitalizing on a dropped flyball in shallow left field Wednesday during a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV quarterfinal at Arnaiz Stadium.
It was game on for top-seeded Ripon from there.
The Indians, who tend to be slow starters with the bats, were sparked by tying and go-ahead hits from McKenna Daley, Mackenzie Hutchinson delivered the knockout blow in the form of a late three-run homer and the ever-steady Sydney Thomason pitched a three-hitter in the 5-1 victory that sets up a semifinal showdown with a familiar opponent.
Daley accounted for two of Ripon’s four knocks. Her double in the bottom of the third, plating Myra Toledo (leadoff walk), was a timely answer to the Hawks’ run in the top half.
Daley wound up on third with one out thanks to a wild pitch and was left stranded, but her job was done — for now.
“I knew I had to pick my team up at that time,” Daley said. “Once one person starts it off it just has a ripple effect on the whole team. Someone has to start it, and sometimes that’s the hardest part, but I really wanted to do it for my team because they are always there for me.”
Daley came through again in the fifth, pushing Ripon (22-2) ahead with a single to left. Toledo was driven in after getting hit by a pitch.
“They’re resilient,” Ripon coach Robert Vernon said. “They know they can hit and they have the experience of being in situations coming from behind.”
Thomason also has a wealth of experience despite being a sophomore. The 6-foot hurler was not rattled after giving up the first run in the third inning and retired the final 13 batters she faced. She struck out three and walked none.
Liberty Ranch leadoff hitter Kharizma Lathipanya-Kham reached with one out in the third after Ripon shortstop Rylee Magazinovic collided with left fielder Bianca Toledo on a Texas League shot, causing the drop. Presli Kooyman, who finished 2 for 3, belted an opposite-field single down the first-base line to bring home the run.
The fifth-seeded Hawks (16-6) had another chance to score in the second, but Haley Ward was stranded after blasting a two-out triple.
Thomason and her defense were nails the rest of the way. Magazinovic more than made up for the miscue with her phenomenal play in the infield, assisting five putouts and showing impressive range on her catch in shallow right-center field that robbed Kooyman of a third hit in the sixth inning.
“I know my defense has my back in every game, so I know that I can attack each hitter because I know they’re behind me,” Thomason said. “I especially want to give a shout-out to my shortstop today, because she did a very good job.”
Thomason ignited the sixth-inning rally that helped put the game away, taking the first pitch she saw from Liberty Ranch lefty Audrey Brookins — she finished with six strikeouts and four walks in 5 1/3 innings — and drilled it down the left-field line for a single. Bianca Toledo followed with a one-out walk, setting up Hutchinson’s devastating bomb to left. She credits her coach for the assist.
“The first pitch I got was the same pitch that I hit over,” Hutchinson said. “Coach Vernon called timeout and said to look for the same pitch you got. I looked for it and made good contact. I didn’t know if it was going to go out, I just knew it was super high up so I ran the bases.”
Ripon returns to Arnaiz Softball Complex today for a its 3 o’clock meeting with No. 3 Calaveras (21-3), the runner-up to Sierra in this bracket the past two years. The Indians previously edged out Calaveras 10-9 in eight innings during the NorCal Classic, battling back from a 7-2 deficit.
Liberty Ranch, meanwhile, takes on No. 3 Casa Roble (15-10-1) in the consolation bracket. The winner here takes on the Ripon-Calaveras loser in the consolation semifinal at 5:15 later tonight.
“You want to stay on the winning side of the bracket, that’s for sure,” Vernon said. “Once you enter (the consolation bracket) it gets long, especially when you have one pitcher. She’s going to pitch every inning until this thing is over, so the less work she gets the better.”