RIPON — At this point last year, Ripon Christian was making its first Sac-Joaquin Section postseason appearance in 16 years.
Now, the Knights are on a mission to defend their Division VII crown.
wasn’t as many nerves as there was last year,” Liz Thomas said.
sophomore slugging catcher drove in three runs in the opening round Monday, and
Madison DeGraaf tallied seven strikeouts in a one-hit shutout as the second-seeded
Knights crushed Elliot Christian 12-0 in five innings.
took a first big step in their title defense. The tournament now shifts to a
double-elimination format starting with the quarterfinal round Wednesday at
Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton.
a little more than half of this team has been there, so now we’re saying why
not go back-to-back?” Ripon Christian coach Lenny Rizzuto said. “Last year was
the first (title) for us, and we want to get a first one for the newer girls on
Christian’s on a seven-game roll and finished as the runner-up in the
competitive Southern Athletic League. The Knights (17-5) had five batters with an at-bat in every turn at the plate, totaling 12 hits that include
went 2 for 3 with a two-run double in the second, helping RC stake a commanding
2-0 lead. DeGraaf also had an RBI double in the inning, and she was able to
work out of jams in the pitcher’s circle to keep the Eagles (5-11) out of
striking out the first two batters of the game, DeGraaf hit Bailey Correa with
a pitch and allowed a single to Annabelle Sepp before inducing a soft grounder
to end the threat. In the third, Elliot Christian’s Madi Sepp (error) and Lexi
Jucich (fielder’s choice) reached to start the inning. Kelly Engel made a nice
grab deep in center field for the first out, and DeGraaf escaped with two more
“Our team today
probably put together one of the three best games that they’ve played all year,”
Rizzuto said. “They just came out and here and balled. They were serious but still
having fun. They were out here cheering but they were more focused and in the
The Knights were
especially locked in at the plate. Leadoff hitter Sarah Brown reached in every
at-bat, finishing 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles, four runs and an RBI. Nicole
Chapman drew three walks and plated three runs before ripping a two-run single
in the fourth.
Morgan Van Elderen
went 3 for 4 with two RBIs, swinging at every first pitch she saw. Rylie Nunes
ended 3 for 3 with two runs from the No. 9 spot.
“Our approach is
always to be aggressive,” Rizzuto said. “We’ve been working on hitting a lot. We
had to stop about halfway through the season because we had to focus on
defense. Once the errors stopped and the defense got better we’ve been able to
balance it out.”
Christian hopes to put it all together again Wednesday when it faces off
against No. 6 Big Valley Christian (9-13), the third-place team out of the
Central California Athletic Alliance that stunned Sacramento Metropolitan
Athletic League champion and third-seeded Valley Christian (16-4), 5-4.
The game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m., and the winner gets No. 1 Stone Ridge Christian (15-8) and No. 4 Foresthill (9-7) in the semifinal on Thursday.
Christian defeated Stone Ridge Christian last year for its first section crown
“In all honesty, it’s not really that different, you just have to take each game one step at a time and play like it’s your last or your first,” Thomas said. “We just have to play with that same intensity.”