VIENNA – Coming into the 2014 Class AAA WV State Softball Tournament, the Ripley Lady Vikings were in familiar territory. Just like last season, they were facing off against the Wheeling Park Lady Patriots at Jackson Memorial Park.  But unfortunately for the Lady Vikings, the result was also the same as last season, as they could not overcome a disastrous fourth inning and fell to the Lady Patriots, 7-1.  The loss placed the Lady Vikings into the loser’s bracket, where they then faced off against the Musselman Lady Applemen in a win-or-go-home matchup for both teams.  In a thrilling, extra inning contest, the Lady Vikings dropped a heartbreaker to the Lady Applemen, 3-2 in 10 innings, eliminating them from the tournament.

“I felt like we were snake bitten in that first game,” said Lady Viking head coach Ken Swisher, “We were playing well when they hit some infield balls that you can’t practice.”

Rain the day before had an effect on the playing surface, which caused several of the Wheeling Park cue shots off the end of the bat to take strange hops and spins and contributed to the big 4th inning.

“The field was very slippery and added to the frustration, which caused the two errors,” Swisher added, “The texture of the infield was too dry being covered by their tarps.  Dirt needs some moisture to compact for good footing.  This is not an excuse, but the reality.”

Up until the 4th, both pitchers were in complete control.  Ripley’s Chelsey Hager cruised through the first three innings, and Wheeling Park’s Skylar Carrington stifled the Lady Vikings’ potent offense. Lady Viking sophomore Darby Petersen was brought in at the start of the 5th inning and closed out the game for Ripley.  
Hager’s final line was: four innings pitched, four runs (none earned), three hits, no walks, and six strikeouts.  Petersen finished with two innings pitched, three runs allowed (two earned), five hits, and two strikeouts.
When the dust settled in that fourth inning, the Lady Vikings had committed three errors that led to 4 Wheeling Park runs, and they simply could not recover.  

The Lady Patriots added two more runs in the 5th inning, and one more in the 6th to round out the scoring, while Ripley pushed across their lone run in the bottom of the 7th inning.

Junior catcher Ashley Mellinger, senior right fielder Dusti Fisher,, sophomore third baseman Myranda Murphy, and Petersen each went 1-3 for the Lady Vikings, while junior Hannah Ford went 1-2, and freshman Izzy Doonhew scored Ripley’s only run.

In the second game against Musselman, the Lady Vikings were stunned by a 6th inning home run by Musselman’s Sabrina Shroades that tied the game at two.  From there, the game went into extra innings, with the Lady Vikings placing the winning run on base in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings but unable to push the run across.  Ripley had a golden opportunity in the 8th, when Hannah Ford reached first base, then stole second and third base uncontested with only one out.  However, a strike out and a pop out ended the inning, and with it, perhaps the Lady Vikes’ best chance at the win.  

“The hardest thing in life is to recover when you felt like you let all those wonderful Viking fans down,” Swisher said, “I think if anyone was able to come back, they saw that why we belonged there.”

Certainly, the Lady Vikings began their second game of the day showing no ill effects from their previous outing.  They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, and looked to be firmly in control with Hager cruising on the mound.  The Lady Applemen got a run back in the third inning to make the score 2-1, with the game settling down after that.  Hager was still in firm control in the sixth inning when Musselman third baseman Sabrina Shroades was able to connect and deposit a pitch over the left field fence to tie the game.  To her credit, Hager settled down and escaped the sixth inning without further damage, and then managed to get the game into extra innings.

The aforementioned missed opportunities came back to bite the Lady Vikes in extra innings, as time and again they put the winning run on base, but could not convert.  Finally, the Lady Applemen broke the tie in the top of the 10th, and the Lady Vikings could not answer in their half of the inning, falling 3-2 and ending their season.

“Without a doubt, we recovered,” Swisher said of his team’s effort in the second game, “We took post-season number one Musselman to the max before losing.”

Hager, who was named to the all-tournament team, turned in a phenomenal (yet, all to typical) effort in her final game in a Ripley uniform. She pitched all ten innings, while giving up three runs (two earned), four walks, scattering nine hits, and six strikeouts.  Sophomore Kelsey Moore led the way at the plate, going 2-5 with a double and an RBI, senior Meghan Brannon went 2-5 in her final game, Hager went 1-5 with a stolen base, Fisher went 1-3 with a stolen base, and Ford went 1-3 with a double.  Murphy also scored a run, in addition to a couple sparkling defensive plays at third at both games.

While the two losses definitely stung, it does not take away from the tremendously successful season the Lady Vikings put together.  Finishing at 21-9 and making their second straight state tournament appearance was something to be proud of, and Swisher was certainly proud of his squad.

“When the players give you and every parent, grandparent, cousin, friend, and Viking follower every ounce of effort,” Swisher said, “You can’t walk away without being proud.”

Swisher also bid adieu to his three seniors, who provided him and his team with many great moments in their four years.
“How about those seniors,” Swisher concluded, “What great leaders. We wish them the best.”