RIPON — Ripon clinched its first Trans-Valley League baseball championship since 2001 Thursday after the Indians sent Riverbank home with an 8-0 loss, but they are not celebrating just yet.
The Indians (10-0, 20-3 overall) face first-year varsity Mountain House next Tuesday and Wednesday to wrap up the TVL campaign with a two-game lead over second-place Escalon.
“If we lose the next two we could be co-champs,” Ripon coach John Manrique said. “We have Mountain House up next and they are having a tough year, so we want to handle our business and be undefeated in league and with our pitching staff that we have and the hitters that we have, we have high hopes.”
The top half of Ripon’s lineup did much of the damage on Thursday.
In their first three trips apiece to the plate (15 at-bats in total), Ripon’s top five batters – Travis Waara, Jack Mayer, Matt DeDonatis, Nick Price and Angelo Baciocco reached base 13 times and scored all eight of the Indians runs.
“It is nice,” Manrique said of the top half of his lineup. “I feel like from top to bottom this is the strongest lineup we have had, at least in the last three years I have been here.”
The only batter to not reach base three times in the first three cycles was No. 3 hitter Matt DeDonatis (two RBI) who singled once and finished 1 for 4.
“During league DeDonatis hit around .600,” Manrique said. “He had a tough day today and everyone has one off day, but the thing is, can the other team get all five of them to have an off day? Having that luxury as a coach is great. I have to give credit to the assistant coaches and to these boys. They just come out here and not only do they practice they come out here to produce. That makes my job a lot easier.”
Mayer was 4 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
“Our top of the lineup has been absolutely killing it this year,” Mayer said. “I feel like our No. 3 hitter (DeDonatis) is one of the best in the TVL.
“If someone has an off day, we have backup on backup on backup all the way down. In my opinion our whole lineup can hit, through and through. We have a great hitting team with great coaching on that.”
Cleanup batter Nick Price reached on a fielder’s choice, was hit by a pitch and then legged out an RBI triple.
“I hit it and I knew I had a chance at three right off the bat,” Price said. “I didn’t round first very well and I got a little tired as I was getting to second, but I think one of them bobbled it so it all worked out.
“(Luke) Petker pitched a real good game and I don’t think we had any errors so I think it was a fundamentally strong game.”
Ripon appears to be peaking after a lot of hard work and just at the right time.
“We have been working at this since December,” Price said. “All the hard work is starting to pay off and we are hitting our stride just before playoffs.”
The game was called for rain after midway through the sixth inning due to rain and Petker went the distance, striking out nine while allowing six hits. Petker also picked off a runner at first base.
“I went out there to do my best,” Petker said. “The defense played great. They saved me a lot.
“My splitter was on today. They bunted a lot and we were playing back so that is how they got a few of their hits.”
Baciocco was 2 for 3 with three RBI and for the Bruins (2-8, 4-9) Carlos Villapudua doubled only to get out in a pickle trying to stretch it into a triple.