RIPLEY - After losing eight seniors last season and returning three seniors this year, only one of which was a returning starter, it was evident that Ripley High's baseball team would be a little inexperienced around the edges this season.
Last year's squad finished (14-18) and was knocked out in sectional play to Parkersburg High and Parkersburg South.
With post season realignment came the optimism of a less daunting road to the State Tournament.
The Viking pitching staff was fresh and new. Gone were names like Jones, Barnette, Karst and Murphy. This group of young Viking hurlers would be named Tucker, Bumpus, Jordan, McCoy, Koontz, Berry and Layhew.
Trevor Tucker suffered a knee injury during football season so coach Shane Casto had to look at infielder Jonny Stepp to play a position he hadn't played since middle school.
"Jonny Baseball" unselfishly took one for the team and became the Viking's backstop in 2013 and did so with flare, throwing out a runner in 16 straight games and helping guide a young staff of talented arms. He blasted two home runs and notched eight RBIs in the season opener with defending Class AAA State Champion Princeton High.
"We had to shuffle some kids around early on and it allowed us to get a look at our freshmen and sophomores," said coach Casto.
Tucker returned at mid season and contributed greatly to the team as an outfielder and infielder.
Statistically, Junior Nathan Tucker was the ace of the staff leading the team in victories (3) and second in earned run average (2.27) while landing third in innings pitched.
Sophomore Isaac Koontz had a strong year on the hill for pitching coach Frankie Cummings. Koontz hurled a team leading 34.1 innings as the teams work horse while going 2-5 with a 5.50 earned run average. Koontz struck out 21 and walked 14. Koontz was on the hill and got the win over Class AA No. 1 Herbert Hoover on May 2.
Freshman Jared Bumpus saw tremendous success early in the season. He threw a complete game gem against Sissonville March 18 in a 3-1 Viking victory. Bumpus went (2-3) on the year.
Christopher Jordan had some hard luck on the hill going (0-5) but led the team in saves (2) and was second in strikeouts (22).
Freshman lefty Logan McCoy held the hot hand in April and May. He defeated a good Parkersburg team on the road and dusted Capital in a 7-0 Region 3 Section 4 shutout. McCoy defeated Riverside 3-1 on April 22 but was saddled with a loss in a sectional game to the Warriors 6-4, a game in which McCoy was scalded by fielding errors.
Easton Berry flashed moments of dominance. He gave then top five-ranked Huntington all they could handle in a six inning performance where he fanned six and gave up just one earned run. The southpaw beat Poca in a Mountain State Athletic Conference placement game.
Page 2 of 2 - In the hitting department, it all started with Tyler Pittenger. "Pitt" came on strong in the last 10 games and finished with a team leading (.388) average, was second on the team in runs (27), tied for second in RBIs (21) and had 12 doubles to lead the team with two triples. He mashed two dingers on the year for the Vikings.
Koontz was the most consistent hitter all season for Ripley. He was second on the team in average (.365) and third on the team in RBIs with (18).
The biggest surprise was the play of freshman Cody Pittenger. Cody led the team in home runs (3) tied for second in RBIs (21) and was third on the team in batting average (.353).
Jonny Stepp mashed (.308) and led the team with 24 RBIs.
Freshman Christopher Jordan stepped in at shortstop and made his mark throughout the season. After a sluggish start he began to show his skills with the bat and caught fire.
Jorrdan hit (.341) and was second on the team with (18) walks. He led Ripley with 30 runs scored while notching 11 doubles, three triples and he led the team with (27) stolen bases.
Aaron Wilkinson, Isaac Vidrine, Preston Baldwin, Alex Hambrick and Dalton Wentz all had their moments to shine for the Vikings. Baldwin blasted a two run double to beat Riverside on Ray Swisher Field at Viking Park.
Aside from Cummings, Mike Lawrence coached the outfield and first base. Gary Barnard served his first year as bench coach.
"It was a roller coaster year. We had lots of ups and downs. The kids were very determined by season's end. It seemed like what we have been teaching since last summer was beginning to click. It was nothing but a pleasure to coach these guys this year. We will come out strong next season," said Casto.
"I want to thank all of the local businesses that sponsored our scoreboard and signs on our fence, those who provided for and worked our concession stands. The parents worked very hard for the team. The guys in the press box were amazing and of course Mike Ruben's tireless efforts for Ripley High School."
While the Vikings won only ten games, the 2013 season proved to be fertile ground for these young Vikings to shine in 2014.