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‘This year we finally did it.’ Stone Ridge Christian wins elusive section title.

Stone Ridge Christian’s Hannah Nelson

Stone Ridge Christian junior Hannah Nelson talks about the Knights winning their first softball section championship. Nelson pitched a complete game to lead Stone Ridge Christian to a 4-1 win over Forest Hill Christian.
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Stone Ridge Christian junior Hannah Nelson talks about the Knights winning their first softball section championship. Nelson pitched a complete game to lead Stone Ridge Christian to a 4-1 win over Forest Hill Christian.

The Stone Ridge Christian players took turns posing for pictures with their new blue section banner. For many of the Knights, that coveted prize took three years to finally to finally bring home.

After falling short to Ripon Christian in the title game the last two years, the Stone Ridge Christian softball team finally won the program’s first Sac-Joaquin Section championship with a 4-1 win over Forest Hill Christian on Tuesday night at Arnaiz Softball Complex.

“This past year I’ve thought about it all the time,” said Knights coach Gerald Nelson, whose team finished 21-7 after after going 4-0 in the playoffs. “We wanted Ripon Christian, but they were moved up after winning their league. I’m very grateful. We have a core group of players who have been trying to win this the past three years.”

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The Stone Ridge Christian softball team celebrates after winning their first Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII championship in school history on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at the Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton, Calif. Shawn Jansen Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

Nelson’s daughter Hannah is part of that group.

The junior right-hander came up big in the circle, limiting the Wildfires (12-5) just one first-inning run.

“This feels really awesome,” Hannah said. “My freshman year we came really close, but not as close as last year. This year we finally did it. Even though we didn’t get a chance to play our rival Ripon Christian, it was still a close game. Forest Hill was a tough team.”

With the game tied 1-1, the Knights used their speed to spark a three-run rally in the third inning. Stone Ridge Christian stole bases, bunted and scrapped their way to a 4-1 lead.

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Stone Ridge Christian sophomore Sydney Shaw sprints to third base after a throw skips into center field during the Knights’ 4-1 win over Forest Hill Christian on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in Stockton, Calif. Shawn Jansen Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

“The last couple days I’ve talked about how bunts win championships,” Gerald Nelson said. “Executing bunts win championships. We didn’t execute those plays in our previous playoff games. Tonight we did.”

Emma Eastman pitched a two-hit shutout with 16 strikeouts in the Knight’s 3-0 win over Forest Hill on Friday. The coaching staff wanted to give the Wild Fire a different look on Thursday with Hannah Nelson.

“As long as she can get through the first inning, I knew she would be OK,” Gerald Nelson said. “She settled in after that. Her curve inside was working for her tonight. Her change and screwball were working.”

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The Stone Ridge Christian players celebrate a diving play by shortstop Caitlyn Cole (center) during the Knights’ 4-1 win over Forest Hill Christian on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Shawn Jansen Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

The Knights steamrolled their way through the playoffs, outscoring their opponents 36 to 3. Eastman and Nelson dominated in the circle during the postseason.

“Our pitchers are the heart and soul of our team,” said catcher Laura Hooker.

Hooker and teammates Brooke Wareham and Sydney Shaw picked up their second section championship this year after winning a volleyball title in the fall.

“To come here and do this feels great,” Hooker said. “This has been a senior year for the books.”

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