On the Mark
We ask ourselves often this question.
“Where does time go?”
There isn’t an answer.
It just happens.
And many times it is hard to believe just how quickly time has evaporated when thinking about a specific situation.
We have blinked and 10 years have passed since Ripley’s Boys of Summer had all of Jackson County and West Virginia swelling with pride as they made their way through Little League All-Star play.
Chris Jordan’s crew of players captured a District 3 crown before winning the West Virginia State Little League Tournament.
The State Tournament title advanced the team to Warner Robins, Georgia for Southeast Regional competition.
That event put the blue and white clad Ripley team in a position of possibly accomplishing the unthinkable – a berth in the prestigious Little League World Series, staged each year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Jordan managed the squad with Sam Stepp and Todd Layhew as coaches.
The Ripley squad was made up of Jake Martin, Jacob Fisher, Luke Layhew, Lane Casto, Ethan Stepp, Jonathan Stepp, Remy Boyce, Jared Bumpus, Cody Pittenger, Josh Landis and Christopher Jordan.
In District 3 play, Ripley defeated Ravenswood, 24-3, Sissonville, 13-1, South Charleston, 1-0, Mountaineer, 17-1, Roane County, 17-0, Hurricane, 13-3, and South Charleston again by a final of 9-0.
Tally it up and Ripley outscored the opposition, 94-8. They produced double figure runs in five games and recorded three shutouts.
With the District 3 title claimed, the next mission for the dream team was winning the 2010 state crown at Kenova’s beautiful Mitch Stadium.
Ripley captured wins in the No. 1 Pool over Elkins, 20-1, and Princeton, 13-6.
In single elimination action, Ripley knocked off the host team of the tournament, Ceredo-Kenova, by a final of 19-4.
Next came another win against South Charleston, 6-2.
In the championship, Ripley downed Bridgeport, 8-2. Among the big hitters in the game were Jordan and Jonathan Stepp, who each had home runs.
Jonathan Stepp was the winning pitcher.
“I told the boys if we beat South Charleston in the semi’s, we would win the state championship,” Ripley’s manager told Jackson Newspapers following the State Tournament. “Nothing changed in my belief that we would play our best game in the final game and we did.
“We played the best all-around game we’ve ever played against Bridgeport. Baseball is won defensively and we fielded really well. Jonathan Stepp pitched a great game and it was, by the way, the first complete game of his career. We were confident, calm, relaxed and focused.”
From there, Ripley moved on to the Peach State with the dream of reaching the World Series.
Things didn’t start off well for Ripley (now known as West Virginia) in Southeast Regional Pool Play as they lost to Florida 14-1.
But the local team regrouped by posting wins over Tennessee, 11-6, and Virginia, 3-2.
Those wins earned the Ripley-based squad a place in the semifinals of the event, which was nationally televised by ESPN2.
Georgia provided the opposition in that showdown and the locals jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Jonathan Stepp drilled a solo home run in the first inning.
Georgia, though, answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame.
But the Ripley/West Virginia team responded with two runs in the second as Christopher Jordan laced a two-out, two-run single to give the lead back to this area’s favorite team, 3-2.
Georgia, which had advanced to the 2006 World Series, would do the rest of the game’s scoring with a huge seven-run fifth inning.
The 9-3 Georgia victory ended the incredible summer baseball journey by the Ripley team.
It’s hard to fathom these Boys of Summer are now young adults.
Casto, Boyce and Jordan have all played college baseball.
Layhew just wrapped up an outstanding college basketball career.
Martin was a three-time state wrestling champion in high school.
While the days of Little League ball, and for that matter high school and college, are short-lived, the memories remain forever.
The Boys of Summer in 2010 have plenty of memories to fill a treasure chest.
They gave all of us plenty of memories to soak in and enjoy as well.
They not only were an outstanding team with great leadership, but they proved to be fine young men who represented this area in top-notch fashion.
Which in the end, is the most pleasing aspect of all.