Lady Viking softball team enjoys great season in 2021

Mark Martin
Ripley High's outstanding season in girls softball had a lot to do with great senior leadership. Left to right are: Lainey Shouldis, Emilee Jordan, Grace Walsh, Kyra Winter and Chloe Shinn.

Ripley’s girls softball team was so close to being a state tournament team in 2021.

So close.

And who knows what might have been had they reached the final four of Class AAA.

After knocking off Cabell Midland, 4-1, in the best-of-three Class AAA Region IV Tournament, the Lady Vikings dropped back-to-back games to the Lady Knights.

Midland would advance to the double-elimination state tournament in South Charleston and win it all in three straight games.

Two of the Midland victories in state tournament play inside Little Creek Park came against Mountain State Athletic Conference rival and champion St. Albans.

“You’re never sure (what’s going to happen in postseason play),” said veteran head coach Kenny Swisher. “We had them right at the breaking point. We made them give us everything they had.

“I was glad to see them (Midland) win it (the state championship).”

Swisher said Midland’s title continues to illustrate just how strong Region IV of Class AAA is year in and year out.

Despite coming up short in the postseason, the season was full of highlights as the Lady Vikings finished with a 23-7 record.

“This was a fun team to coach,” said Swisher, a 1969 Ripley High graduate, who guided his program to a state championship in 2009. “We could score.”

Senior Kyra Winter had the team’s top batting average at .446. She had three home runs on the season, seven doubles and 31 RBIs.

Sophomore Cassidy Cummings had a .417 average for the year. She also clubbed five home runs, six doubles and drove home 35 runners.

Kristabelle Carte, another sophomore, hit .410 on the season. She finished with a home run, one triple, seven doubles and 18 RBIs.

Kaitlyn Swisher, a freshman and the head coach’s granddaughter, had five home runs, seven doubles and 28 RBIs. She had a batting average of .391.

Eli Hershey, a sophomore, was the team leader in home runs with nine. She also had four doubles. She batted .345 for the year while driving home 26 runs.

Sophomore McKenna Hall had a .337 batting average with two homers, seven doubles and 16 RBIs.

Senior Grace Walsh hit five home runs in her final season along with seven doubles and two triples. Batting .333 for the season, Walsh plated 23 runners.

Sophomore Sidney Varney also hit .333 with a home run and nine RBIs.

Junior Aalayi Baldwin had a .329 batting average. She collected five doubles and drove home 23 runs during the season.

In limited trips to the plate, standout pitcher Chloe Shinn, a senior, hit .375 with three RBIs.

Sophomore Mya Casto hit .310 with a double and six RBIs. Jenna Farrell, a sophomore, hit. .207 with a double and eight RBIs.

As outstanding as his team was when they were at the plate, Swisher was just as happy for what his Lady Vikings did out in the field.

“We weren’t very good defensively early on. We got to be pretty good and then started making exceptional plays. Not just average plays,” he said. “We turned three double plays in a game. Teams don’t turn many double plays from second to first (in girls softball). We definitely improved defensively on what we were trying to do and came a long way.”

Shinn, who was the Class AAA All-State Second Team captain, compiled a 19-3 record on the year. She pitched 130 innings with 111 strikeouts and 30 walks. She was the owner of a 2.69 ERA.

Varney finished 3-3, working 49.2 innings. She had 20 strikeouts and 19 walks. Her ERA was 4.27.

Hershey was 1-1 in the circle. She pitched eight innings with five strikeouts and two walks. She had a 1.75 ERA.

Besides Shinn, Walsh and Cummings were also Second Team All-State selections as a catcher and infielder, respectively.

“That was pretty awesome,” Swisher said of the trio being honored in the All-State balloting by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. “It’s just exceptional.”

Swisher said its tough seeing the likes of Shinn, Walsh, Winter, Emalee Jordan and Lainey Shouldis, who was injured most of the season, graduate.

He feels those seniors were great role models for the younger players who return.

And with plenty of them coming back, the future appears bright for Ripley girls softball.