STOCKTON — After winning pitchers’ duels in its first two Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff games, Ripon outslugged No. 2-seeded Calaveras in a 16-6 mercy-shortened victory Thursday at Arnaiz Softball Complex.
Freshman Caitlynn Campbell (2 for 2, walk) hammered a pair of two-run homers from the No. 8 spot in the order, and Sydney Thomason (2 for 4, RBI double, two runs) ended the assault in the bottom of the fifth inning when she scored the 16th run on a wild pitch. McKenna Daley (two runs) crushed a solo homer earlier in the fifth.
“Our team just has the drive to win,” Ripon’s fourth-year first baseman Sydney Vernon said. “Even when we don’t have our bats going, we know that our fielding and pitching can keep us in it. We know how to win one way or the other.”
And she’s one win away from being part of the school’s second section championship team. She was a freshman in 2016 when the Indians knocked off Linden twice in the title round of the Division V bracket.
Calaveras (22-4) earned another shot at them after rallying for four runs in the seventh inning to knock off No. 5 Liberty Ranch (17-7) in thrilling fashion 11-10 in the consolation semifinal Thursday night.
It’s the third straight final-round appearance for Calaveras, which lost the last two to Sierra.
Top-seeded Ripon (23-2) is plenty familiar with the Mother Lode League’s four-time defending Mother Lode League champion. The two clubs previously met during the NorCal Classic in Tracy on April 25, when the Indians climbed back from an early 7-2 deficit to win 10-9 in eight innings.
Ripon responded much sooner this time around. Calaveras scored once in the first inning as University of Texas at El Paso-bound catcher Alanda Cardon (2 for 3) rapped a double to left after Madison Clark reached on an infield error.
The Indians sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom half and were aided by two Calaveras errors in their staggering six-run deluge that was punctuated by the first of two deep drives to left from Campbell.
“We just knew we had to score a bunch of runs,” Ripon coach Robert Vernon said. “We’ll definitely take them sooner than later but it seemed like in the second inning it was the 14th inning.”
Calaveras made one big push to overtake Ripon in the third inning. The speedy Clark hit the right-field fence for a leadoff triple and scored on Keelie Koepp’s sacrifice fly. MacKenna Steele, Bri Head (3 for 3, two hits) and Jordyn Okumura followed with one-run singles, but Calaveras left two runners stranded and went into the bottom of the third trailing, 8-6.
Bianca Toledo (3 for 4, double, two runs) led off the home half with a single, and Campbell cleared the fence again.
“I didn’t really go in there thinking too much, I just thought to sit back and wait on it, stay level with my bat and find a way to make contact,” Campbell said. “Sure enough, I made contact and it was gone.”
All told, the Indians outhit Calaveras, 13-11 — they combined for 30 in their extra-inning clash a month ago. Lilly Mejia scored three times and finished 2 for 3 with a double for Ripon. Mackenzie Hutchinson contributed a two-run double in the fourth, and Sydney Vernon ended up 2 for 4 with an RBI.
“This team has a lot of energy and I am just as excited as I was my freshman year,” Vernon said. “Making it back (to the final) my senior year is more special. As a freshman I knew that no matter what we had three more years, but tomorrow I know it’s going to be my last game ever (for Ripon).”
The final round begins at 5 p.m. with the “if” game set for 7:15 in case Calaveras wins. Up from the fifth spot, Ripon is the No. 1 Division IV team in the state, according to the latest release of the Cal-Hi Sports rankings. Calaveras is ranked fourth.