HURRICANE – Three Hurricane runs in the first two innings were enough to send the Redskins past the Ripley Vikings in Game 1 of the Class AAA, Region 4 Championship Series on Wednesday night at Lola Meeks Field. Despite the 3-1 defeat, the Vikings battled throughout. With senior ace Lane Casto on the mound, the Vikings stayed within striking distance all game long, but simply could not find the right combination of hits at the right time. They stranded runners in scoring position in the first, third and sixth innings, but were able to plate their lone run in the sixth.
"We obviously wanted a different outcome, but our guys battled," Viking head coach Shane Casto said, "We could've easily thrown in the towel after we were down 3-0 after two innings. But we didn't. Lane settled down and started getting us in the dugout quickly and we were putting guys on base. We just couldn't seem to get the big hit when we needed it."
The Redskins struck first, going up 1-0 on a sacrifice ground-out by Jacob Allen in the bottom of the first inning. They would get two more runs in their next half inning, all on an RBI double from Evan Dearing. Viking senior Anthony Jarvis's tremendous diving catch ended the third, saving at least one more Redskin run.
From there, Redskin ace Garrett Gress took control on the mound. The senior worked his way out of a jam in the third, then got the VIkings out in order in the fifth. Juniors J.T. Kemp and Rocky Ford gave the Vikings some life in the top of the sixth, lacing back-to-back doubles to get the Vikings on the board. However, Gress limited the damage to just a run, forcing a groundout to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Casto worked his way out of a jam, forcing a groundout to end a bases loaded threat from the Redskins.
That set the stage for Ripley's last gasp. Freshman Broedy Boyce led off the inning with a single, but Gress got a strikeout, then was able to induce a game-ending 5-4-3 double play to give the Redskins a 1-0 lead in the series.
"Take nothing away from Hurricane, they made some plays and Gress made some pitches when he needed to to get them out of jams," Casto said, "We made a couple early mistakes that lead to a couple of their runs, but at the end of the day, we can't leave runners stranded. When it gets to this time of the year, everyone is good and the team that makes the most plays and has timely hitting, is generally going to come out on top. Thats what happened tonight. We battled and executed the plan, but in the end, we came up just a little bit short. We can't hang our heads. This game is over. We have to come ready to play tomorrow and extended this thing to game 3. Like we tell our guys everyday, forget yesterday, win today, and don't worry about tomorrow."
Ford led the Vikings at the plate, finishing a perfect 3-for-3 with an RBI.
Casto took the hard-luck loss, going six innings while surrendering three runs (two earned) on six hits. He walked four and struck out three Redskins.
Gress moved to 10-0 on the season in getting the win, scattering eight hits and allowing just one earned run with seven strikeouts for Hurricane.
Dearing (1-for-4, two RBI) and Allen (1-for-3, RBI) led the Redskins at the plate.
Game 2 of the Best of Three series is set for tonight at Viking Park at 6:30 p.m.