RIPLEY - Although the 2014 baseball season ended in disappointing fashion for the Ripley Vikings, losing in sectional tournament play to the Riverside Warriors, there is no reason to be sorrowful. Rather, the fact that the Vikings gained valuable experience this past season and return every single player next year is cause for optimism and excitement for the blue and white.

As for this past season, the Vikings finished with a 20-14 record, a ten win improvement from the 2013 season.  Moreover, they were able to play some of their best baseball toward the end of the season against top level competition, winning 13 of their last 16 games.  Furthermore with their young core coming back, it’s easy to see why things are looking up for the Vikings.

“I was very happy about our regular season,” head coach Shane Casto said, “I’m not sure how many people thought that this year’s team would win 20 games and we very easily could’ve ended up with three or four more.”

The Vikings were led offensively by sophomore shortstop Christopher Jordan.  Jordan, the Vikings’ leadoff man and who recently committed to play Division I baseball at Marshall University, was the picture of consistency at the top of the lineup.  He finished the year with a team leading .381 batting average, a .444 on base percentage, a .549 slugging percentage, 43 hits, two home runs, 21 RBIs, and 31 runs scored.  He also led the team with 19 stolen bases, turned in a solid .919 fielding percentage at short, and even had two saves on the mound for the Vikes.  Another bright spot was junior catcher/second baseman Jonny Stepp, who turned in a team leading .583 slugging percentage, a .333 batting average, and a .440 OBP. Stepp also led the team with 4 home runs, and was second on the team with 23 RBIs and 32 hits.  Junior center fielder Trevor Tucker also had a solid offensive campaign, finishing with a .337 batting average, 32 hits, one homer, 16 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases. Junior first baseman/DH Isaac Koontz was solid both at the plate and on the mound for the Vikings, finishing with a team high 26 RBIs while going 2-0 on the mound with a 4.03 ERA and 28 strikeouts on the year.  Freshman catcher Anthony Jarvis was another bright spot for the Vikes at the plate, finishing with a .308 batting average, a .802 OPS, and a .429 slugging percentage, with three home runs and 17 RBIs. Sophomores Luke Layhew and Cody Pittenger also had solid offensive seasons, finishing with a .284 average and a .257 average respectively.  Pittenger also had 18 RBIs, while Layhew had several key hits.  Freshman third baseman Lane Casto finished with a .281 batting average and two home runs.  

The Viking pitching staff was a great contributor to the team’s success in 2014, led by a trio of young left-handers.  Sophomore Logan McCoy emerged as the team’s ace, finishing the year 6-4, with a 2.84 ERA, 45 strikeouts, and led the team with 64 innings pitched.  Sophomore Jared Bumpus also had a tremendously successful season, going 4-2 with a 4.53 ERA and 20 strikeouts, while also recording a save.  The third cog in the machine was junior lefty Easton Berry, who finished 3-2 with a 3.28 ERA and 36 strikeouts.  Layhew emerged as the Vikings closer toward the end of the season, finishing with three saves in three opportunities for a perfect 1.000 save percentage and 13 strikeouts.  
Clearly, the Vikings core of young talent can put up solid numbers.  However, it was the way that this season ended, as well as knowing how close they were to moving on, that will impel them going forward.  

“We definitely didn’t finish the way we wanted,” Casto said, referring to his team’s sectional defeat, “But the good thing is, the coaching staff didn’t have to say goodbye to anyone, and this year left a bad taste in their mouth with how it ended.”

Without a doubt, next year’s version of Ripley’s baseball team will be one year older, one year wiser, and perhaps most importantly, hungry to fulfill the potential they know they have.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Casto concluded, “They worked extremely hard and did everything I asked and then some.  We have everyone coming back next spring, so look for brighter days to come.”