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Regional softball: Ritchie, Ripley begin best-of-three series this week

Ritchie County center fielder Karleigh Sonju makes a play on the ball during the Rebels’ sectional championship game victory against St. Marys. Shortstop Alyvia Pittman looks on. (Photo by Jay W. Bennett)

ELLENBORO — Two dozen softball teams are still alive and have hopes of reaching the state tournament, but only four programs in each of the three classes will advance following the best-of-three regional series.

Ritchie County head coach Dave Mossor’s squad will carry a 19-5 record into their opening Class A, Region I game set for 6 p.m. Tuesday when Madonna (13-8) invades.

The Rebels are led by senior right-hander Chloe Elliott, who is 18-3 in the circle with 211 strikeouts versus 13 walks in 130 innings while carrying a 0.75 earned run average. She also leads the team with a .559 average and two home runs. She’s second with 24 runs-batted-in.

“We didn’t even get much of a practice in,” Mossor admitted Friday evening. “We started outside and didn’t practice so we went inside and hit. Chloe is going to be hard to beat.

“We just need to put the bat on the ball and I don’t think their pitcher is going to be as good as Mahayla Nichols (of St. Marys). We’ve always had a struggle with her because she plays us so much.”

The middle infield combination of shortstop Alyvia Pittman (.473 AVG, 7 2Bs, 15 RBIs, 16 SBs) and second baseman Marissa Jeffrey (.516 AVG, 10 2Bs) have proven more than effective both at the plate and in the field.

Freshman catcher Jayci Gray has nine steals, six doubles, is batting .388 and has the Rebels’ only other home run.

First baseman Olivia Dodd sports a .403 average and has team-highs of 10 two-baggers nd 25 runs-batted-in.

“I didn’t think our record would be quite as good,” Mossor said when asked how he thought things might go after having no softball in 2020. “(In 2019) Wheeling Central beat us 2-1 and 2-1 (in the regional) and they were (state) runner-up. We squandered a lot of opportunities both times.”

Veteran Ripley head coach Ken Swisher’s squad is hoping to claim the Class AAA, Region IV crown. The Vikings (21-5) open play at 6 p.m. Monday when Cabell Midland (25-8) travels to Jackson County.

“We’re kind of looking at it that we’re pretty even,” Swisher said when asked if he felt either team was a favorite on paper. “We scouted them and I felt we were pretty evenly matched.

“We just keep reminding the girls of last year and how nice it is just to be able to play, and of course we got a bunch of seniors and a bunch of sophomores. They’ve just jelled together and enjoyed every minute of it.”

Leading the charge for the Vikings is senior hurler Chloe Shinn, who sports an 18-2 record.

Second baseman Kaitlyn Swisher leads off and is hitting .407 with four bombs and 25 RBIs. Belle Carte (.403 AVG) is the right fielder and hits in the two-hole. The top of the lineup also features third baseman Cassidy Cummings (.427 AVG, 4 HR, 31 RBIs) in the three-hole with Sidney Varney (.353 AVG) batting cleanup.

“Our second pitcher, Sidney Varney, has been DP’ing for our pitcher,” coach Swisher noted. “She came on strong and has some nice hits for us lately and is kind of on a roll.”

The Vikings also feature first baseman Aalayi Baldwin (.361 AVG, 23 RBIs), left fielder Kyra Winter (.457 AVG, 30 RBIs), center fielder Ellie Hershey (.380 AVG, 9 HRs, 23 RBIs), catcher Grace Walsh (.337 AVG, 4 HRs, 22 RBIs) and shortstop Mckennan Hall (.353 AVG, .953 fielding %).

“With the senior pitcher coming back with experience there and a lot of hitters I knew we were going to be a good hitting team, just too many kids here who drive the ball hard,” added the skipper. “I felt it would take an awfully good team to move us out of here and our defense now has come on because we didn’t get to play defense last year. We got a catcher who can gun people out. We could make waves here, but you got to be sharp. There are no more off nights.”

Little Kanawha Conference champion Wahama, which is 22-0 and is led by a pair of sophomores in hurler Mikie Lieving and catcher Amber Wolfe, will take on Man (18-2) in Class A, Region IV.

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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