RIPLEY – The last time Ripley reached the West Virginia Girls State High School Softball Tournament it turned out to be historic. The Lady Vikings captured the 2009 Class AAA state championship, marking the first-ever for Ripley High in a girls varsity sport.

The title was the third team championship for the school being added to a pair of baseball crowns that were won in 1997 and 2004. Lady Viking head coach Kenny Swisher would love to see that number jump to four.

Ripley’s presence this year at Vienna’s Jackson Park will be the sixth time the program has competed in the State Tournament. This will be the second occasion in which Swisher has taken a Lady Viking team to the promised land. The other four trips came during the highly-successful Tess Gump era.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch at what has unfolded in Ripley softball’s previous State Tournaments:

1987- This group guided by Gump and assistant Judy Lieving made Ripley High history by becoming the first team (girls or boys) to compete for a state championship. Still in its infancy stage, high school softball in West Virginia had just one class. The Lady Vikings defeated Shady Spring, 3-2, and Berkeley Springs, 7-6, in come-from-behind fashion to reach the championship game in the 1987 double elimination tournament played in Moundsville. Milton, which fought its way out of the loser’s bracket, downed Ripley, 8-1, to force a second and decisive title game. Ripley took a 5-2 advantage in game two only to watch Milton (now a part of Cabell Midland) score the final four runs for a 6-5 championship victory. Ashley White, Missy Robinson and Lori Judge earned All-Tournament honors.

1989-Softball still had just one class two years later but the venue and format had changed. The Lady Vikings journeyed to Summersville for the single elimination State Tournament. Ripley earned wins over Milton, 2-1, and Berkeley Springs, 3-1, to reach the title game once again. In the finals they were beaten by Shady Spring, 9-3. White, who closed out her phenomenal career with a 52-20 record, was named to the All-Tournament team. She went on to a Hall of Fame career in softball at Morehead State University.

1991-Ripley rode the right arm of the sensational Lisa Thompson, who ended her career with 53 wins before going on to enjoy more softball greatness at West Virginia Wesleyan, in the ‘91 campaign. Ripley defeated Logan to reach the State Tournament in Milton.

The stay for the Lady Vikings was short-lived, though, in the double elimination tournament. The Lady Vikings fell in their opening game to eventual champion Milton, whose head coach was Ravenswood native Mike Groves. Ripley was then eliminated by John Marshall.

2001-Led by dominant pitcher Casie Waskey, who later enjoyed a stellar collegiate career at Alderson-Broaddus, Ripley returned to the State Tournament in Summersville to end a 10-year drought. The Lady Vikings opened with a 2-1 win over Parkersburg South before falling to Logan, 5-3. South got revenge against the Lady Vikings, 3-0, to end Ripley’s championship dreams (Logan would win the event by topping South, 2-1). Waskey, Mandy Sansbury (who played at Wesleyan and Ashland, Ohio and is now the head coach at Glenville State College) and Codi Hayhurst earned Class AAA All-Tournament honors.

 2009-The Lady Vikings stormed into the State Tournament with 27 wins under their belts and then survived a storm to garner an opening round win against Logan. Ripley and the Lady Wildcats had to endure a six-hour, 54-minute rain delay.
Once play resumed, Ripley captured a 9-4 victory and was off and running toward that state title. Next came an easy 8-0 win against Hedgesville. After battling its way out of the loser’s bracket, Hedgesville gave it another shot against Ripley in the championship but it would be all Lady Vikings to the tune of 16-1. By claiming the title, it gave Ripley 30 wins for the season. Ripley absolutely dominated the Class AAA All-Tournament team with Carly Caldon, who moved on to play at Glenville, Michelle Sayre, who enjoyed a great career at Marietta, Breanna Ratliff, Carisa Ratliff, Lacey McComas and Ally Southall, all being honored.