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SOFTBALL: Ripon Christian leads Southern League after forcing split with Waterford
Bulletin softball 2019
Elizabeth Thomas is surrounded by Ripon Christian teammate at home plate after hitting her seventh home run of the season Thursday against Waterford. - photo by GARY JENSEN/

RIPON — Ripon Christian’s softball team is at the top of the Southern League standings.
The Knights are in that position thanks to Thursday's 3-0 win over visiting Waterford.
The Wildcats won the last meeting, 3-2. The only league losses for the top two teams are against each other, though Ripon Christian (9-1, 13-3 overall) has played two more SL games.
"Maddy pitched a great game," said RC coach Lenny Rizzuto of his ace hurler Madison DeGraaf, who scattered six hits while backed by a stellar defense.
Catcher Elizabeth Thomas gunned down a pair of runners trying to steal second in the third inning. She also contributed with a home run in the sixth inning to cap the final score. It’s her seventh homer for the season and 47th RBI.
"It was awesome how we all came together as a team," she said, crediting DeGraaf and shortstop Mikaela Vander Molen for their parts in helping mow-down the base runners.
The Knights opened the bottom half of the third with Nicole Chapman and Vander Molen reaching base on a single and hit batsman, respectively. Chapman scored on a fielder's choice by Sarah Brown and Vander Molen made it 2-0 on Ariel Vander Woude's RBI single to left.
Waterford (7-1, 12-2) threatened in the fifth and sixth. Both times runners were left stranded as DeGraaf came up with inning-ending strikeouts. She finished with nine strikeouts and scattered seven hits.
"This was the best she has pitched," said Rizzuto of DeGraaf's bulldog mentally.
Thomas, who just missed hitting one out in the third, hit a no-doubter solo blast in the sixth, giving RC an insurance run.
DeGraaf wasn't done just yet. In the seventh, she yielded a one-out walk and a softly hit single, but then the got the final two outs on a caught-looking strike three and come-backer to the mound.
Lost in the shuffle was a well-pitched game by the Wildcats' Tawni McCarty, who allowed five hits.
"We knew that they would be tough. Waterford is a mirror image of us," Rizzuto added.