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SOFTBALL: Knights charge back to final
Cormier delivers walk-off hit to edge Big Valley
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STOCKTON — Ripon Christian survived elimination Thursday with a come-from-behind 8-7 victory over Big Valley in the Sac-Joaquin Section VII playoff tournament at Arnaiz Field.

Elizabeth Thomas, who drew a walk after Madison DeGraaf's flyball was dropped in the outfield to begin the seventh inning, came home on Ally Cormier's walk-off hit.

"I couldn't have done it without Ally," said an elated Thomas. "It's a team effort — we did it together."

That win came on the heels of an otherwise tough two-game stretch for the Knights (19-6) on Thursday.

The No. 2-seeded team opened with a 3-2 loss to No. 1 Stone Ridge — a costly two-base throwing error provided the go-ahead runs for the Knights of Merced — forcing RC to play a second game.

The RC Knights defeated Big Valley by a 10-run margin the previous day, but the No. 6 Lions (10-15) came in with some momentum after beating Foresthill, 11-2, in an earlier game.

"That's a scrappy team," said RC coach Lenny Rizzuto of Big Valley.

The Lions kept the pressure, getting the leadoff runner aboard in every inning for the exception of the second and seventh.

They left the bases loaded in the first and fell behind 1-0 after Nicole Chapman, who reached first on a one-out single, avoided the tag at home following Thomas' come-backer to the mound.

Big Valley rallied for four runs in the third. Roni Simi had an RBI single to right and Kristyn Dexter delivered a two-run single.

Down 4-1, the Knights answered back in the home half of the frame. Sarah Brown opened with a lead-off double to spark the four-run rally and Thomas came through with an RBI hit to left.

RC led 5-4.

The Lions tied the game in the fourth thanks to Simi's sacrifice bunt, scoring Kaitlyn Rau to knot the game at 5-5.

Big Valley added two more runs in the sixth, taking a 7-5 while leaving the bases loaded with no outs. But the Knights avoided further damage when pitching ace DeGraaf ignited the 1-2-3 double play followed by a grounder to third fielded cleanly by Chapman.

Adriana Arias was struck by a pitch to open the bottom of the sixth for RC. She swiped second and scooted to third on an error. Rylie Nunes, who was briefly sidelined with an injury, came back to deliver an RBI single.

Down 7-6 in their final at-bat, the Knights opened the bottom of the seventh with DeGraaf delivering a fly ball to the outfield that was dropped for a two-base error. Thomas walked and both advanced on Morgan Van Elderen's hit.

DeGraaf scored the tying run on a wild pitch and, moments later, Thomas reached home safely with the winning run.

RC will face Stone Ridge in rematch Saturday at Arnaiz Field No. 2 at 12:30 p.m. and will need to win twice in the final round to repeat as Division VII champion.

Stone Ridge 3, Ripon Christian 2

Errors accounted for most of the early runs by both teams.

The exception to that was the RC run in the third. Chapman drilled a one-out single to left, swiped second and advanced on  DeGraaf's infield single. Thomas plated Chapman on a sacrifice fly to right.

A two-base throwing error by the Knights accounted for a pair of Stone Ridge runs in the bottom half of third.

Stone Ridge scored a first-inning run by taking advantage of an infield miscue.

RC tied the game at 1-1 when Van Elderen reached base on an error. She advanced to second on Arias' sacrifice bunt and took third on a passed ball. Van Elderen scored on a wild pitch.

The Knights went up 2-1 in the third. Chapman came through with a one-out single to left, stole second and reached third on DeGraaf's base hit.

Thomas' sacrifice fly to right plated Chapman.

RC unraveled defensively in the third with uncharacteristic mistakes that accounted for the go-ahead runs.

"We were not at our best today," Rizzuto said. "We gave them all of their runs."