Midland dashes Ripley’s state softball tournament dream

Mark Martin

Ripley was in the driver’s seat of the Class AAA Region IV Girls Softball Tournament.

But then Cabell Midland came back around and swiped the keys.

After winning the tournament opener at home inside Lady Viking Park, 4-1, Ripley fell in back-to-back games to the Lady Knights, 5-0 and 13-9.

The two wins in the best-of-three regional earns Midland a berth in this week’s West Virginia High School Girls State Softball Tournament, which was to start today (Tuesday) at South Charleston’s Little Creek Park.

The loss brought to a close Ripley’s fabulous season with a 23-7 record.

“We made a run at it,” veteran head coach Kenny Swisher said of Ripley’s runner-up finish in the regional. “We were in the top eight of Class AAA. When you are playing with the bigger schools it can be a difficult challenge.”

Kenny Swisher's Ripley Lady Viking softball team completed a fabulous 2021 season as the Class AAA Region IV runner-up.

Swisher was proud of his young team and their efforts in 2021 as they battled back from a non-2020 season due to COVID-19.

“They are excellent players, they never say quit. They are just a joy to coach with a high-competitive level.”

Swisher says goodbye to five seniors in Chloe Shinn, Laney Shouldis, Kyra Winter, Grace Walsh and Emily Jordan.

Cabell Midland 5-Ripley 0

Needing a win to stay alive, the Lady Knights struck for two wins at home and never looked back in forcing a decisive Game 3 back in Ripley. Rielly Lucas launched a home run in the first inning for the Lady Knights to get them off and running.

Ripley managed just three hits off of pitcher Jess Terry, who struck out seven of the first nine batters she faced.

Lady Viking pitcher Sidney Varney allowed just six hits in the contest. She struck out one and walked three.

Ripley sophomore pitcher Sidney Varney fires a pitch during the Lady Vikings recent Class AAA Region IV Tournament with Cabell Midland.

“She (Terry) pitched an excellent game. But our girl (Varney) pitched really good, too. They both are sophomores,” Swisher said.

Four of Midland’s five runs were earned.

Ripley committed three errors in the contest.

Three different Lady Vikings collected the hits. Kristabelle Carte drilled a triple, McKenna Hall had a double and Mya Casto delivered a single.

Cabell Midland 13-Ripley 9

Returning to where they had lost the first game of the regional tournament, Midland wasted no time in getting started in the top of the first, thanks to a two-run homer off the bat of Olivia Pelfry.

The count stayed at 2-0 until Midland plated three more in the top of the fourth.

Staring at a 5-0 deficit, the Lady Vikings got new life with a five-run fourth inning to even the score. The productive inning included a three-run homer by Kaitlyn Swisher.

Midland, though, responded by producing five runs of its own in the top of the fifth.

Down 10-5, Ripley kept clawing.

The Lady Vikings plated a run in the last of the fifth, and after a scoreless Midland sixth got even closer with two runs in the bottom half of the inning.

Leading 10-8, Midland added three more insurance runs in the top of the seventh.

Down to its last at-bat, the best Ripley could do was one more run in the home half of the inning.

With the win, Midland improved to 26-9 in becoming part of the Class AAA four-team field at the state tournament.

Midland and Ripley combined to bang out 29 hits. Midland held a slight edge, 15-14.

Besides Swisher’s three-run shot, Cassidy Cummings also had a home run. She had two hits in the game and drove home a pair of runs.

Carte, Winter, Walsh and Hall all had two hits.

Alaiyah Baldwin, Mya Casto and Varney also collected hits.

Elli Hershey and Jenna Farrell were both credited with RBIs.

Shinn pitched five innings for Ripley. She gave up 13 hits and 10 earned runs. She struck out three and walked three.

Varney pitched two innings, giving up one hit and three earned runs. She had one strike out and issued two walks.

“There is just no quit in this team, they showed that (in the loss). To get down 5-0, most teams shut down. We just kept fighting back and almost tied it up again. It came right down to the end,” Swisher said. "We kept pressuring them. We couldn’t get the shutdown inning we needed."