RIPLEY - Make no mistake, the Ripley Vikings will be looking for revenge in the Class AAA, Region 4, Section 2 tournament, which begins for them tonight in Ripley when the Vikings take on the Riverside Warriors. They have a history with their two opponents, the Capital Cougars and the Warriors. The Cougars knocked off the Vikings 4-2 in their only regular season meeting, while the Warriors knocked the Vikings out of the postseason last year, taking the title in a thrilling 6-4 victory in 10 innings. However, this is a new year, and the Ripley Vikings are a very different team. Moreover, the Vikings know what they need to do to win.
“If we throw strikes, make routine plays, and put the ball in play,” said Viking head coach Shane Casto earlier this week, “I like our chances against anyone.”
Certainly, the Vikings will need to focus not only on their opponents, but also on execution and the mental aspects of the game. Fortunately, the Vikings are in the midst of playing some of their best baseball of the season, as they finished the regular season by winning 12 of their last 14 games. Still, the postseason is an entirely different animal.
Don’t let their 8-16 record fool you; the Capital Cougars are a very solid team. When they met the Vikings on May 2 at Viking Park, the Cougars snapped the Vikings 6 game winning streak with their 4-2 victory. The Cougars shut down the Viking bats, and withstood a seventh inning rally to hold on to the victory.
The Riverside Warriors will no doubt be a tough test for the Vikings. The Vikings met the Warriors twice in the regular season, losing 10-1 at Riverside on April 9 during a major slump for the Vikes, but bounced back for a 5-3 victory against the Warriors in the MSAC tournament at Riverside on May 5.
It helps that the Vikings have been knocking the cover off of the ball in the past month. Down the stretch of the regular season, the Vikings scored 5 or more runs in 12 of their final 18 games. However, the Vikings will need to make the routine plays if they are going to be successful. They recorded 72 team errors this season, but a solid .912 fielding percentage.
In the end, the Vikings will need to rely on steady hitting, solid pitching, and defense to move on to the Regional tournament, but Casto is very confident in his still young team.
“We’ve beaten some really good teams and given some games away,” Casto said, “But we’ve been playing really well lately and I like our chances.”
The Vikings open sectional tournament play tonight at home against Riverside at 6:30 p.m. and travel to Capital tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m.
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