RIPLEY– This one hurt.  You could tell by the downtrodden looks on the faces of the Viking baseball team after Thursday night’s 7-6 loss to the Riverside Warriors in 8 innings in the first round of the sectional tournament.  True character, however, is shown in how you respond to adversity.  For the young Vikings, they would have to put the loss behind them quickly, as they moved on to play the Capital Cougars last night. But there was no denying that this particular loss stung.
“We gave this game away,” said Viking head coach Shane Casto, “We had a 5-1 lead heading into the 5th inning and couldn’t finish.”

Much like the sectional tournament game last year, Riverside came on strong late, and once they got the lead, put the game away in extra innings.  Thursday night, it was Warrior shortstop Cameron Norris who was the hero, launching a home run over the left field wall in the top of the 8th inning to give Riverside the 7-6 lead, capping off a furious comeback.  Starter Logan McCoy pitched well for the most part, but lost command in 5th and gave up walks that the Warriors capitalized on to begin their comeback.  McCoy went 4 2/3 innings, while giving up three walks, four hits, four runs (none earned), and struck out one batter.  Isaac Koontz relieved McCoy, going an inning and third while giving up three hits, two runs (one earned), and striking out one batter.  Luke Layhew took the loss for the Vikings, but pitched well, aside from the home run.  Layhew went the final 2 innings, while giving up one hit and one walk.   

The Vikings got on the board in the 2nd, when Trevor Tucker scored on Cody Pittenger’s swinging bunt and then Layhew scored when Christopher Jordan drew a walk to make the score 2-0 Vikings.  Anthony Jarvis deposited a pitch over the left field wall in the third to make the score 3-0 Vikings, who looked to be firmly in control at that point.  Riverside got a run back in the top of the 4th, making the score 3-1, but McCoy continued to escape further damage.  The Vikings looked to have a stranglehold on the game in the bottom of the 4th, when they added two more runs, first when Jonny Stepp was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and then Jordan scored on a Jarvis sac fly, which made the score 5-1.  

However, the Warriors answered right back with three runs of their own in the 5th, but the Vikings added a run of their own in their half of the inning, holding onto a 6-4 lead.  From there, walks began to mount, and Riverside took advantage with some timely hits, tying the game at 6 in the 6th inning.  The Vikings had a golden opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the 7th, with runners on first and second with one out, but they could not push a run across.  The Warriors wasted no time in the top of the 8th, when Norris crushed the first pitch he saw over the left field fence.  The Vikings simply could not recover and fell 7-6.

“We didn’t throw strikes, didn’t make some routine plays, and didn’t get a hit when we needed it,” Casto said, “This time of year, you can’t afford to make mistakes and still get by.”

The bottom of the Ripley lineup brought most of the offense, with Lane Casto going 3-4, and Layhew and Pittenger each going 2-4.  Koontz went 1-4, and Jarvis went 1-4 with two RBIs.

While the loss hurt, Casto made it clear to his squad that they have to have a short memory.

“I hope our guys dig deep and give every bit of grit in their bodies out,” Casto said, “We have to win every pitch, not every game or every inning, but every pitch.  We have to take care of Capital and if we pitch to contact, make routine plays, and hit a little bit we will be fine.”