The season started optimistically. After all, Coach Ken Swisher returned four seniors who were the last players on the roster to experience the 2009 state championship.
The Lady Vikes finished (16-9) and were ranked tenth at the end of the regular season. Unfortunately, The girls in blue were ousted by all state hurler Cece Bailey and Parkersburg South 2-1 and 6-0 in the sectionals. An 8-0 dismantling of Parkersburg kicked off the Ripley softball postseason.
Makenzie Hesson, Kayla Ford, Ryne Hill and Abby Brannon led a youthful Viking team with enthusiasm and class as the girls jumped out of the shoot and snatched early victories to establish their season early.
Returning all state sophomore hurler Reese Gandee would handle the bulk of the pitching this season.
Gandee layed down a firm foundation and kept the Lady Vikings in virtually every game she pitched. Chelsey Hager also made the occasional start and worked in relief. If needed, Karly Fitzsimmons and Dusti Fisher were ready to fire from the bullpen.
Hager, the speedy Ali Cunningham and Fisher patrolled the outfield and did so with precision as all three made the all MSAC team for 2012.
Senior Hesson led the squad in hitting (.386) and played a near flawless second base for the Lady Vikings. Ripley’s Female athlete of the year Ryne Hill also had a fine season. Hill played multiple positions including catcher. Hill and Hesson also snagged MSAC selections. Hill hit .306 and drove in 12 and crossed the dish 14 times.
Senior Abby Brannon drove in 14 runs and scored nine on the season. Brannon had a knack for bringing the ducks in off the pond in her career.
Cunningham and Hager stole bases at will for the Lady Vikes with 23 between them.
Arguably, the best team performance of the season was a 1-0 shutout of a very talented South Charleston team. In the contest, Gandee hurled a gutsy one hitter for Ripley in a fierce pitching dual.
The Lady Vikes spent spring break at Myrtle Beach for the Grand Strand Softball tournament. The tourney boasted 16 top teams from the east coast. Ripley faired very well against top competition and finished No. 4. A very impressive showing for the gals in blue as they represented Ripley and the State of West Virginia.
There were close calls, a 1-0 loss to then No.1 Saint Albans on the road was a hard one to bring back home for the team.
A 13-3 victory over rival Ravenswood on senior night was a wonderful memory for the seniors to take with them. Previously, Ripley swept a double header at home over George Washington at Lady Viking Park. Looking ahead to 2013, Coach Swisher returns some very talented ball players. It was good to see so many other underclassmen shine like Mikayla Pursley, Meghan Brannon, Ashley Mellinger, Montana Kershner, Hannah Ford, Desiree’ Johnson and Sierra Norris among others.
Page 2 of 2 - The team will return three seniors next year in Cunningham, Katelyn Jordan and Kershner. The Junior class next year will be a special and talented one.
It’s worthy of noting that the development of frosh catcher Ashley Mellinger was something to truly witness. Mellinger gained confidence as they season progressed and this really helped in the loss of Dusti Fisher’s consistent bat to injury late in the season.
Terry Landis turned in a fabulous year from the press box. Landis is a dedicated Viking and his presence at the ball field is always special. Coach Bower, Coach Nester, Coach Hager, Coach Ratliff and Coach Vannest put in long hours for the Lady Vikings.
Coach Swisher was proud of the girls and all of the hard work and dedication they put forward and looks forward to the 2013 season. “I wouldn’t trade this team for any other. We had good senior leadership. We relied on quite a few younger girls this year and they stepped up and delivered.”