STOCKTON — Timely hitting.
Woodland Christian had it, Ripon Christian did not.
As a result of not getting the key hit when they needed it Friday night, the road to a third consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section softball banner got a little longer for the No. 2 Knights after their 4-3 loss to the top-seeded Cardinals in the Stadium at Arnaiz Softball Complex.
Ripon Christian (21-4) also drubbed Millennium 17-2 in five innings earlier on Friday to reach the winners-bracket semifinal of the SJS Division VI playoffs.
“We came up with a few big hits,” Woodland Christian Russ Peacock said. “It was a pretty solid ball game.
“We haven’t faced many teams like that this year. And when we have faced some tough battles, we didn’t necessarily rise to the occasion. Today we did against a really good ball club. We were just able to make a few more plays than they were able to.”
Of the seven runs scored in the game, six were plated with two outs.
Jordyn Hutchins (3 for 3, two RBI, two doubles, two runs) scored for the Cardinals (21-3-1) in the first inning on a two-out infield single by Ariana Pires (2 for 2, RBI) for a 1-0 lead. A two-out double by Hutchins and single by Pires plated Brooke Faille (2 for 3, two runs) and Hutchins to tie the score at 3-3 in the third inning and Hutchins doubled in Faille in the fifth with what proved to be the winning run.
“This is a level of competition we haven’t seen in a while,” Ripon Christian coach Lenny Rizzuto said. “They’re a very good team and they came out dealing but we hung with them. I’m sure we are going to see them again.”
The Knights can force a rematch if they get past No. 5 Argonaut in the consolation semifinal starting 7:15 Monday night. The winner faces Woodland Christian on Tuesday but must beat the Cardinals twice for the title.
The Knights got all three of their runs in the third inning. With two outs and a Ripon Christian batter having yet to reach base, Mikaela Vander Molen drew a walk as did Madison De Graaf. Sarah Brown singled in Vander Molen, De Graaf scored on a wild pitch and Elizabeth Thomas (2 for 3, double, RBI) singled in Brown for a 3-1 lead.
Brown was in on two big defensive plays for Ripon Christian. In the fourth inning after a throwing error landed the ball at the feet of Rebecca Postmus in center field, Postmus got the ball to Brown at second base and she fired home to Thomas, cutting down Ali Rehrman who tried to score from first on the play.
“My team never gives up,” Rizzuto said. “And that is what we did on that play at the plate.
“We had an uncharacteristic error and since the girls back each other up they were able to get the girl out at the plate.”
Brown made the final out of the Cardinals sixth with a diving catch off the bat of Bella Hyder, robbing Hyder of at least a single.
“That was a beautiful diving catch,” Rizzuto said of Brown’s grab. “In fact, we worked on diving last week in the gym when it was raining. She just laid all the way out.
“They are putting it all out on the field. They are not going to leave anything behind. Win, lose, tie, whatever, they are going to leave it all right here. That’s our mantra right now for these playoffs.”
Against Millennium, the Knights clung to a 3-2 lead before erupting for 14 runs in the fourth. They kept the Falcons of Tracy (14-7-1) off the board in the fifth for the mercy-rule win.
Ariel Vander Woude (4 for 4), Morgan Van Elderen (3 for 4), De Graaf (2 for 4), Vander Molen and Thomas each had a double. Brown was 2 for 2 and Nicole Chapman was 3 for 4.