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SOFTBALL: Ripon Christian tames Lions to reach semifinal
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STOCKTON — Ripon Christian High began strong and finished strong in Wednesday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII quarterfinals against Big Valley Christian of Modesto.

The No. 2-seeded Knights (18-5) rolled to a 12-2 victory over the Lions in the six-inning affair at Arnaiz Field.

They'll play No. 1 Stone Ridge Christian today in the winner’s-bracket semifinal at 5 p.m. on Field No. 3 at Arnaiz. It’s a rematch of last year’s section final won by Ripon Christian.

"We got into a lull in the middle of the game," said RC coach Lenny Rizzuto following the win over No. 6 Big Valley Christian (9-14).

"I think we got a little too over confident," said Knights center fielder Kelly Engel, who is the lone senior on the team.

RC scored four times in the first inning by taking advantage of three hits, two walks and an outfield error. The Knights, who already had a 4-0 before the first out was even registered, sent 10 batters to the plate.

The big hit was Madison DeGraaf's two-run single.

RC displayed some sparkling moments on defense.

Second baseman Sarah Brown, in the second inning, turned in a double play and ended a mild threat by scooping up an inning-ending grounder.

Big Valley cut the lead in half in the third, scoring twice highlighted by Julia Copland's RBI-single to right.

Lions pitcher Kristyn Dexter, meanwhile, settled down after a rocky start, retiring nine Knights batters in a row before issuing a lead-off walk to Rylie Nunes in the fourth.

"We had become impatient at the plate," said Rizzuto of his team's lack of offensive production prior to the fifth. "We got back to working (the pitcher) and getting ahead of the count."

RC was also aggressive on the baseball, forcing the action while reeling in five runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth.

The Knights reached the 10-run mercy rule on a close-out hit by freshman Allison Mendes.

Van Elderen led the hit parade — 12 hits altogether by RC — by going 3 for 4 with two RBI.

Nicole Chapman, Engel and DeGraaf went 2 for 4 each, with DeGraaf driving in three runs and Chapman and Engel both having an RBI.

DeGraaf, who was also the starting pitcher, earned the victory.