RIPLEY - There is a business-like approach to the 2013 Ripley softball team. They practice hard and study the game just as hard and they expect to win.
The ladies have gotten off to a torrid start on the season and stand undefeated at (6-0) and ranked No.8 in AAA.
"We are playing better with every game. Teams are really going to have a hard time shutting us out. Our schedule gets tougher at the end of the year, which is what you want come tournament time," said coach Ken Swisher.
"Our freshmen are really playing at a high level and filling in those spots in the infield for us."
The Lady Vikings have five pitchers who have notched a varsity victory already. You would be hard pressed to find another team that can boast that statistic.
In game action, Ripley spent the last week on the road. On March 22 the ladies traveled to Greenbrier East and found themselves in a dogfight with a good team. Ripley's All State pitcher Reese Gandee held the Lady Spartans at bay for four shutout innings before they scored six earned runs in the sixth inning to give the Lady Spartans a 7-6 lead.
This is when the fireworks began. Ali Cunningham was walked. She then stole second base, then third base. What happened next cannot be described effectively in mere words.
Cunningham studied the pitchers motion and tendencies and when she caught the hurler with her back turned raced home to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
"She actually took her glove off with the ball in it. When I saw that I didn't hesitate and I went for it," said Cunningham.
"In my four years, I can't remember our dugout being so loud when we were coming back. We really came together as a team and got it done when we had to in a pressure situation."
Cunningham has moved to the No.2 hole in the line-up from the leadoff hitter last season and adapted well to the change.
Ripley scored three in the tenth and nailed the door shut on the green girls for a thrilling 10-7 victory. The ladies played near flawless defense behind their pitchers in the game, making no errors.
In that inning, Sierra Norris took first base on a fielding error and moves to third on base a hit by Kelsey Moore. Norris scored on bad throw to third by Greenbrier East's catcher on a pick off attempt.
Moore then scores on base hit by Cunningham who then steals second and scores on base hit by Dusti Fisher.
Karly Fitzsimmons got the win in relief of Gandee and went 4.1 innings and gave up no runs on three hits with three strikeouts and only two walks.
Page 2 of 2 - Gandee threw 5.2 innings and gave up seven earned runs on nine hits with four strikouts and a pair of walks.
Dusti Fisher put on a hitting clinic. The lefty line drive hitter went 5-for-6 with two doubles and two RBI. Look for Fisher to be a player that has to be accounted for in the lineup.
In the hitting department: Kelsey Moore 2-for-6, Ali Cunningham 1-for-4 with RBI and four stolen bases, Meghan Brannon 4-for-6 with an RBI, Dusti Fisher 5-for-6 with two RBI, two doubles, Ashley Mellinger 1-for-6, Chelsey Hager 2-for-3 with an RBI and a double and Hannah Ford picked up an RBI.
Ripley also took down Princeton in a "mercy rule" shortened contest.
Fire-baller Chelsey Hager took the mound and dominated the Lady Tigers. Hager fanned eight Princeton batters on her way to a three inning, three hit performance.
The Lady Viking hitters feasted on Princeton pitching. Meghan Brannon was 1-for-3 with an RBI and a triple. Dusti Fisher 1-for-3 with an RBI, Myranda Murphy 2-for-2 with a triple, Reiley Simpkins 1-for-2 and Sierra Norris went 2-for-2 with an RBI and a double.
On March 23, Ripley traveled to Pikeview and defeated the Lady Panthers, 8-2.
Dusti Fisher took the hill on this day and the southpaw had a fine outing. Fisher only gave up four hits and one earned run. She struck out one batter in three innings of work for the win.
Freshman Darby Petersen, who threw a no hitter at Capital three days earlier, provided four innings of relief and giving up only one earned run and fanning seven Lady Panthers.
In the hitting department, Kelsey Moore was 2-for-2, Ali Cunningham 1-for-2 with an RBI, Meghan Brannon 2-for-2 with two RBI and a triple, Dusti Fisher 1-for-2, Montana Kershner 1-for-3 with an RBI, Tori Anderson 1-for-4, Sapphire Parsons 1-for-3 and Ashley Mellinger drove in a run.
Mellinger, the team's talented sophomore catcher won the job last season as a frosh. She feels that handling an array of pitchers really has helped her development.
"Each one of our pitchers have something different and special that they bring to our team. They make me better and I love catching all of them. I think our team is special this year. I think we can really make a nice run and I am excited about it, we all are excited." said Mellinger.
The Lady Vikings host Winfield on Saturday in a makeup game. The double-header action starts at 1 p.m. Ripley has rescheduled Parkersburg South for Saturday April 27.