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Ripon Christian helps out neighbors with upset win
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Staff reports of the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
SALIDA — A playoff berth and the Trans Valley League championship aren’t on the line for Ripon Christian down the final stretch of the regular season, but its nine juniors and one sophomore still have something to play for under recently-appointed head coach John DeVisser. Most of those 10 underclassmen helped the Knights’ sophomore team win the conference title last year, and they sent an early message for the 2010 season by stunning playoff contender Modesto Christian 7-4 on the road Monday.
The win was the first for DeVisser, who officially replaced Joe Daretta two weeks ago, and it also keeps intown rival Ripon in the chase for the second Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoff berth. Modesto Christian (8-5, 13-10) needed to win to clinch but now has to at least split with defending TVL champion Hughson this week.
“The approach the guys showed today is what I’ve been trying to get out of them all season long,” DeVisser said. “We hit well and we played aggressively on the base paths to force them to make decisions.
“They pulled it off perfectly, and I’m so proud of them for that.”
It was the first win for DeVisser, but Ripon Christian (3-10, 7-15 overall) has been hot since the Orestimba Tournament over spring break. The Knights have won five of their last eight because of improved defensive play, pitching and clutch hitting.
All were on display in Monday’s make-up game originally scheduled for last Friday. Ripon Christian had two early leads and never looked back after Matt Unruh’s three-run homer to left center in the second inning put the Knights up for good, 5-3. The rest was up to first-year pitcher Robbie DeVries and the defense, which only had one error. The hard-throwing DeVries was fantastic in his six-plus innings from the bump, where he amassed 10 strikeouts while scattering just three hits.
“Robbie didn’t pitch in his two years on the JV team, but in our first day of practice I saw what kind of arm he had,” DeVisser said. “He has so much potential, and I can’t wait to see what he can do next year. When he throws strikes, he’s one of the best pitchers in the league.”
DeVries was also 2 for 4 at the plate with a run and a steal. Aaron Fay, who doubled and scored RC’s first run in the opening frame, finished 2 for 5, and Josh Welch contributed two runs and three steals. Unruh ended up 1 for 1, as he walked and was beaned in his other plate appearances. Ripon Christian can pick up even more momentum going into next season as it closes with a two-game set against 23-0 Escalon starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday at home.
Escalon 9, Ripon 3
One decisive inning kept Ripon (7-6, 9-11) from moving into a second-place tie with Modesto Christian in Escalon Monday. After Kyle Wagner’s RBI single gave the Indians the first lead in the top of the third, the Cougars (13-0, 24-0) answered with eight on two errors and five hits in the bottom half.
“Other than that, we shut them down outside of a couple of hits,” Ripon coach Mark Whelan said. “They did all their damage in one inning.”
That after battling Escalon to two extra-inning defeats in their previous games. Ripon had a chance to break it open in the third but couldn’t capitalize on a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity. Colby Gomes smashed a solo home run to highlight his 3-for-3 effort for Ripon. Francisco Gustin was 2 for 3 and also drove one in on a jack. Ripon’s only chance of advancing to the playoffs is a combination of a sweep of last-place Riverbank, and a two-game sweep of Modesto Christian by Hughson.
 “It’s good news to know we still have a breath in the race, so we’ll have motivation to finish out the regular season strong,” Whelan said. “It’ll be the first and only time we pull for Hughson.”
— Jonamar Jacinto