RIPLEY - In an interview at the end of the 2013 season, coach Ken Swisher said, “I honestly believe that we can only stop ourselves next season. We can challenge for a championship.”
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the 2009 Class AAA State Championship for Swisher’s Ripley High softball team.

Last season, the squad reappeared in the state tourney, losing 3-2 to Jefferson and bowing out in a 8-3 loss to Wheeling Park.

“Last year was a big step for this group of girls. I expect us to be very competitive in 2014 and play at a high level,” said Swisher after a recent practice. “We are very excited to hit the field as I feel this is the best group of 24 kids that I have had.”

The team is intact, minus starting centerfielder Ali Cunningham who is competing on the cross-country team at West Virginia Wesleyan University.

Ripley will rely on two talented seniors in outfielder Dusti Fisher and pitcher/outfielder Chelsey Hager.
Fisher mashed .358 in 2013 while producing 16 RBIs and 45 total bases. She played with a golden glove in right field, with a flawless defensive performance (zero errors).

“Dusti is a joy to coach, she has a unique skill set and we look for her to slide over to centerfield where we feel that we won’t miss a beat with her taking over that important position for us,” said Swisher.
When not on the mound, first team Class AAA All State selection Chelsey Hager will patrol right field for the blue crew. In regional play at South Charleston, the game went 11 innings and Hager mowed down 22 hitters en-route to a 4-1 victory. The Lady Eagles had a tough lineup and Hager juggled chainsaws to lead her team to an important win.

While leading the team with a .424 BA in the regular season (75 at bats or more), the senior was a bulldog on the mound, pitching with passion and purpose while posting a (15-6) record and conference leading ERA of 0.90 while fanning 145 hitters in 124.2 innings.

“Chelsey is one of the most physically gifted and smartest kids I have ever been around,” said Swisher.
Senior second bagger Meghan Brannon is healthy after a broken bone in her arm has healed from an injury suffered in a home game with Saint Albans last season. At that time, she led the club with a .530 BA in 35 at bats.

Speedster Hannah Ford will see some time in the outfield where her fleet feet can best be utilized.
Junior Ashley Mellinger returns as one of the best backstops in the Mountain State Athletic Conference. She finished the season strong with a .343 BA and drove in 13 runners. Mellinger’s rocket arm helped her put out 23 runners last season.

The blue and white will once again be strong up the middle of the diamond with Mellinger, Hager, Brannon and Fisher.

Infielders Myranda Murphy .264 BA and Kelsey Moore .260 BA established themselves as solid components to the Lady Viking team.

Senior Speedster Mikayla Pursley will miss the season due to concussion related health precautions but is present to show support for her teammates.

Sophomore Darby Petersen came on strong as a pitcher and notched a (5-3) record while posting a 2.37 ERA. The hurler threw a no-hitter versus Capital in 2013.

Players like Maddie Hinzman, Sapphire Parsons, Sierra Norris, Tori Anderson, Brittani Hancock, Perri Williams, Maddy McCann, Alyssa Bumpus, Delaney Parsons and Reiley Simpkins will see game action and compete for starting roles in practices leading up to the squad’s home opener versus Parkersburg on March 21.
Seven freshmen are on the 2014 roster including; Izzy Donohew, Allie Hamilton, Olivia Ludtman, Cassidy Craddock, Haley Carte, Aly Blankenship and Destinee Baldwin.

Coach Swisher’s staff remains intact from a year ago. Assistant coaches include Stephanie Nester, Greg Bower, Dana Hager and Doug Vannest. Bobby Ratliff returns as statistician.