When Jadon Vander Molen came to the plate Monday with the bases loaded and his team trailing by three runs in the bottom of the sixth, he was looking for one thing.
"A fastball, a meat pitch," he said. "Something I could drive."
He found it ... and drove it.
The Ripon Christian senior crushed the pitch into the right centerfielder gap, clearing the bases before the relay throw got away from a Bradshaw Christian infielder, allowing Vander Molen to score the eventual game-winning run.
RC closed the door in the seventh with a game-ending double play for an 8-7 victory and the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI crown at the University of the Pacific. The Pride beat the Knights 16-5 in the opener to force Game 2.
"This is not how we drew it up," RC coach John de Visser said.
It certainly wasn't.
In Game 1, the Knights got blown out. In Game 2, they lost their ace starter Willem Hoekstra – who they had saved for this winner-take-all game – in the second inning due to an elbow injury. RC later fell behind 7-2.
But on the 90-degree day at Klein Family Field, the Knights found a way.
Hoekstra entered the second game with a 10-0 record, but said he felt pain in his elbow during pregame warmups.
He made it through the first inning with no noticeable issues. In the second inning, he struggled, allowing two hits and a walk. After the second hit, de Visser walked to the mound, and all of a sudden, Hoekstra was walking over to third base, Vander Molen to shortstop and sometimes-reliever Nolan Lingley to the mound.
"We felt for (Willem)," de Visser said. "That was as emotional as I've ever seen him."
Meanwhile, Lingley had been in just 12 games and pitched 22 1/3 innings before entering the do-or-die game. But, he got out of the jam in the second inning and struck out a batter and coaxed a popout to escape trouble in the third.
He got roughed up in the fourth, but managed to pitch through the sixth as the Knights drew to within three runs, 7-4.
"He came out and showed he can go a long ways.” Hoekstra said of his teammate.
That set the stage for the dramatic sixth.
Joseph DeBruyn singled and Drake Nelson reached on a bunt single. Lingley then walked to load the bases for Vander Molen.
"We were only down by three so even if (Vander Molen) had a productive out, he gets us to within two," de Visser said. "You're just trying to barrel up, and he did it."
Vander Molen, who was the starting pitcher in Game 1, was credited with a triple on his go-ahead hit.
As he was rounding second, he figured he'd be diving head first into third. But then The Pride defense fumbled the relay.
"I was prepared to dive and then coach is waving me in and I'm thinking, "Are you kidding me?"
Said Hoekstra, who was in the on-deck circle: "As soon as that ball was hit, I knew he'd be running a long time."
In the top of the seventh, Hoekstra cleanly fielded the first out. Then, with the tying run on second, second baseman Caleb Terpsma snared a line drive and tossed to Vander Molen covering the bag for the game-ending double play.
"This is something we've been building or 10 years," he said. "It takes a lot to get over the hump. We found that out today. That was a good baseball team we beat."
Forced to win two games for the Division VII crown, Big Valley Christian got what it needed out of pitcher J.T. Thompson in Game 1.
The senior pitched into the seventh inning to lead the Lions to a 6-2 victory over Alpha Charter.
However, the Angels rebounded in the second game, beating Big Valley 9-5 to capture the title. Big Valley loaded the bases in the top of the seventh of Game 2, but couldn't get the big hit.
"We have a lot to be super proud of," Lions coach Rick Countryman said. "It's not like we blew it. (Alpha Charter) is a really good team."
The Angels beat Big Valley 5-1 earlier in the tournament to send the Lions into the loser's bracket.
Facing a must-win game, Thompson took the mound and shut down Alpha Charter.
"He was just stellar," Countryman said of Thompson, who struck out five and took a shutout into the sixth. "He had command of his fastball. He had command of his curveball. He was just dominating. It was pretty spectacular."
In Game 2, Alpha Charter, located in the Sacramento County town of Elverta, scored two runs each in the third, fourth and fifth innings to take an 8-2 lead.