RIPLEY, W.Va. — Ripley’s 15-4 start, including wins over perennial powers Hurricane and Nitro, has put the Vikings right in contention for another baseball state championship.
Head coach Shane Casto, now in his fifth year at the helm, has led a young, core group of developing players through the program’s recent resurrection back into the mix at the top of Class AAA. Casto was the starting shortstop for Ripley’s 1997 state champion team and served as an assistant coach when the Vikings won the 2004 title as well.
“It’s been pretty special,” Casto said. “We had a couple of down years after we lost a big senior class and basically started from scratch. Two years ago, we had five or six games where we started five freshmen, which is hard to do against our schedule. We won 12 or 13 games that year, increased that win total by seven or eight last year and now have it to where we’re at this year.”
Ripley, overall, is still relatively young with just three senior starters and the entire roster back from a season ago. Junior shortstop (and Marshall commit) Christopher Jordan already has around career 90 starts under his belt since coming in his freshman season.
“We’ve got some guys who were thrown to the fire a little earlier than we would have liked to,” Casto said. “But we were at a time where we didn’t really have a choice – those were the best guys we had. Instead of testing the water, they had to jump right in. We had some growing pains for a while, but it’s starting to pay off now.”
It was Jordan who hit a 3-run homer for the Vikings in an early season 6-5 win over defending state champion Hurricane, erasing a couple of deficits to pull out the win.
“That was the signature win that these guys needed,” Casto said. “That was kind of the turning point for us. That’s when I knew that these kids had grown up and that we were going to fight. The last two years, we wouldn’t have won a game like that. We won some games last year, but couldn’t get that big one.”
Following a 5-1 loss to South Charleston where the Vikings left seven runners in scoring position, Ripley’s mental toughness was tested again after an 11-1 set-back to Class AA defending state champion Bridgeport.
“We played at 10:00 a.m. and we looked like we were asleep,” Casto said. “We played terrible, but then had to immediately re-group against Morgantown as a part of the double-header. We bounced right back with an 11-6 win. You can see that they’ve got some hunger and desire.”
Another signature win came this week over top ranked Nitro, 4-2 in 10 innings. Jordan knocked in the game winning run with a two-out double in the top of the 10th.
“That was a good game to watch, a good game to coach and a good game to be a part of,” Casto said. “That’s the way baseball is supposed to be played with two good teams going at it, quality pitching, quality batting – the whole nine yards.”
Sophomore catcher Anthony Jarvis is leading Ripley overall on the year from the plate with a .510 batting average and 28 RBIs. Jordan is at the .492 mark with 24 RBIs and 28 stolen bases — five of those stolen bases came in one game against Ravenswood.
Senior center fielder Trevor Tucker, a four year starter, is hitting .435 on the year and will attend the U.S. Naval Academy next year.
On the mound, senior left-hander Easton Berry (who threw against both Nitro and Hurricane) is at the top of the rotation, while junior left-handers Logan McCoy and Jared Bumpus and junior right-hander Cody Pittenger are all in the rotation as well. Junior Luke Layhew has served as Ripley’s closer on the year.
The Vikings have more-than proven they belong as legitimate contenders in Class AAA — only time will tell if Casto’s club can re-emerge for another state tournament berth out of Region 3.
It was Riverside advancing out of Ripley’s section last year all the way to the state title game.
“We’re going to see good pitching from here on out,” Casto said. “There are no superstar-elite teams, so to speak in our region. But everyone from top to bottom is very, very sound. Whichever team comes out of it will represent our region very well in the state tournament. If we do what we’re capable of doing, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be right there in the mix to get to Appalachian Power Park in June.”
2015 Baseball Schedule
|7||04/01/15||6:00PM||H||East Chester HS, NY||6||–||3||L|
|9||Cancelled||06:00PM||A||BRIDGEPORT @ RAVENSWOOD||–|
|11||04/06/15||07:00PM||H||PERKINS HS OH||8||–||1||W|
|14||04/11/15||10:00AM||A||BRIDGEPORT SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL||11||–||1||L|
|23||04/25/15||03:00PM||A||EAST CARTER,KY H.S.||–|
|24||04/25/15||01:00PM||A||ROWAN CO., KY H.S.||–|
|29||05/02/15||05:30PM||H||MEIGS, OHIO H.S.||–|
|wins: 15 lost: 4 ties: 0|