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Jackson Newspapers - Ripley, WV
  • Lady Vikings fall short, reflect on 24-win season

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  • VIENNA - For a team that overcame so many speed bumps along the way it was a disappointing ride back to Jackson County for blue and white faithful as Ripley was bounced from the Class AAA State Softball Tournament on Wednesday.
    Ripley fell to Jefferson in game one, 3-2 and suffered an 8-3 setback to Wheeling Park in game two that sent the girls home with nothing but valuable experience that they can learn from and apply in the future.
    The Lady Vikings (24-12) have had problems plating runs throughout the season and relied heavily on blue and white pitchers to shut down the opposition.
    "We aren't a high scoring team. Our pitching is good enough that if we can score three or four runs we can have a chance to beat anyone," said coach Kenny Swisher as the girls were preparing for the post season.
    Game one at Vienna's Jackson Field made coach Swisher's words echo of clairvoyance.
    For the first five innings Ripley High pitcher Chelsey Hager and Jerfferson's flamethrower Alexandra Whitt were deadlocked in a stubborn mound battle of sheer will. Ripley struck pay dirt first on an RBI hit from Madisyn Hinzman in fifth inning that plated Sierra Norris. In the bottom of the inning, the Lady Cougars responded with an unearned run.
    Ripley took a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh when Ali Cunningham crossed the dish but the game was not over.
    Jefferson plated two unearned runs in the bottom of the inning to tear the victory from the clutched arms of the Lady Vikings.
    Hager was saddled with the loss but pitched very well in her first State Tournament environment. The junior went 6.2 innings and struck out 10 while walking four and surrendering seven hits and one earned run.
    Chelsey Hager, Ashley Mellinger and Darby Petersen had a hit a-piece while Hinzman had a hit and an RBI, Ali Cunningham and Sierra Norris scored a run.
    While the skies remained cloudy at times, it was a dry day at Jackson Park as the crowd waited about three hours for game two's first pitch as Ripley took on Wheeling Park who lost to Hurricane in their game one.
    Unfortunately, Ripley carried their cool hitting bats into game two with Wheeling Park and backed it up with some shaky defensive play.
    Ripley managed just nine hits in both games combined with many of those coming with no ducks on the pond to drive home.
    Freshman Darby Petersen started the game on the mound for Ripley and pitched very well. Petersen gave up just two runs (zero earned) and only walked one batter while striking out three.
    The hurler looked very sharp warming up leaving one to ponder what could be in store for blue and white fans.
    Page 2 of 2 - Ripley got an RBI on a squeeze play from Kelsey Moore but Park plated eight runs (six earned) with four coming in the top of the seventh.
    Hager and Karly Fitzsimmons pitched in relief with Hager taking the blunt end of the scoring by Wheeling park as she surrendered six earned over 2.2 innings.
    Mellinger and Fisher had a hit each while Moore had two and an RBI, Hager had a hit and a run scored, Ali Cunningham scored a run and swiped a bag and Montana Kershner scored a run.
    Fittingly, both Ripley seniors (Cunningham and Kershner) crossed the plate in their plast game.
    Wheeling Park pounded out 10 hits in the game.
    Wheeling Park would eventually face Hurricane on Thursday and fall in the championship game to the Lady Redskins, 5-0.
    Coincidentally, Ripley defeated Hurricane, 4-2 on April 17.
    Coach Swisher's staff remained intact from a year ago. Assistant coaches included Stephanie Nester, Greg Bower, Dana Hager and Doug Vannest. Bobby Ratliff returned as statistician.
    The future looks bright for Ripley softball as the team has just one hole to fill in centerfield with the graduation of All MSAC performer Ali Cunningham.
    While the three year starter left some big shoes to fill covering the largest territory on the field, Ripley will return its corner outfielders along with the entire starting infield. Hager will return for her senior year and injured players like Mikayla Pursley and leading hitter Meghan Brannon will be back in uniform. All State pitcher Reese Gandee was lost to an elbow injury and her status for next season is unclear. One thing is for certain, it was an electrifying 2013 campaign for Ripley's Lady Sluggers.

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