Ripon’s softball team reached a new level of success this past spring.
The Indians may not be done yet.
“I just have to find a first baseman,” Ripon coach Robert Vernon said. “Everyone else is coming back.”
That first baseman so happens to be his daughter Sydney, one of six Ripon players named to the All-Trans-Valley League team. They reaped the rewards of their run to the league championship led by MVP Lilly Mejia and Pitcher of the Year Sydney Thomason.
Ripon finished 24-2 overall, and its lone league loss came in a meaningless game in the regular-season finale against Hilmar.
“Lilly was a big part of our success,” Vernon said, adding that the third-year junior starter was the unanimous choice for MVP. “She hit about .500 and played a solid third base for us all year. She gave us a large portion of run production whether she was driving them in or scoring.”
Mejia batted .519 and slugged six homers, five doubles, three triples and drove in 37 runs while plating 33 others. Her highlights in league included a solo homer in a thrilling 9-8, extra-inning win over then-defending champion Escalon, a two-homer surge against Hilmar and a 3-for-3, four-RBI effort against Hughson.
Mejia continued to produce in the postseason. In the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title-clinching finale against Calaveras, she belted a late two-run single that helped give the Indians some needed insurance. The 7-3 victory not only brought the Indians their second overall SJS crown, but first-ever mythical state title awarded by Cal-Hi Sports.
Vernon said Mejia’s versatility and leadership helped get the club there. A natural outfielder with experience as a catcher, she has played third base for Ripon the past two years to solidify the infield.
“She’s one of the more versatile position players we’ve had,” Vernon said. “At the beginning of the season I didn’t know who would play second, third or shortstop but it made more sense leaving her at third with her arm strength.
“She was also very vocal and a great mentor to Rhylee (Magazinovic, a freshman shortstop) being on that side of the diamond. She has developed into a very good teammate.”
Thomason put together a stellar sophomore season as Ripon’s workhorse pitcher as well as one of its top hitters. She pitched all but two innings for the Indians, ending up 24-2 with a 2.10 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 153 innings.
Offensively, she hit for a team-best .575 average that included three homers, 12 doubles and 30 RBIs.
“Having only one pitcher, we tried to minimize her innings and she handled it like a pro,” Vernon said. “If she felt any pressure you couldn’t tell by looking at her face. For a sophomore, she has ice water in her veins.”
Sydney Vernon will continue playing softball for Concordia University, a NAIA Division III school out of Wisconsin, after contributing a .448 batting average and 15 RBIs for Ripon. Clutch-hitting second baseman McKenna Daley, center fielder Bianca Toledo and catcher/designated player Mackenzie Hutchinson — all juniors — join Vernon on the all-league team.
Daley hit .488 with six homers, 10 doubles, three triples, 23 RBIs and 36 runs. Hutchinson was one of the top power hitters in the area, clubbing eight homers and 11 doubles to go with a .387 average and 25 RBIs. Toledo batted .387 and drove in 16 runs. Her reliability in center field allowed Mejia’s move to third base.
Freshman catcher Caitlynn Campbell and Magazinovic both earned honorable mention.
“All of them are deserving,” coach Vernon said. “And all but one is coming back. It’s a good spot to be in, that’s for sure.”
Gen Fontes of Hilmar was named All-TVL Offensive Player of the Year, while Hughson second baseman/outfielder Kali Gose is Defensive Player of the Year.