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Prep softball: Ripley gets the upper hand on Riverside

Advantage Ripley.

After eliminating the Capital softball from the Class AAA Region 3, Section 4 tournament earlier this week, Ripley and Riverside squared off Thursday night in the first game of a best-of-three series to decide the sectional title.

And thanks to a few timely hits, along with solid pitching and defensive play, the Vikings earned a 4-0 win at Riverside in Quincy.

The Vikings (21-8) will look to capture the sectional crown at the same venue at 6 p.m. today. A Warriors (19-15) win will force a decisive third game Saturday at Riverside.

The winner of Section 4 will advance to face Section 3 winner South Charleston (19-9) in regional semifinal play next Thursday.

"Both teams would like to be in this spot," Ripley Coach Kenny Swisher said of his team's win. "We were just fortunate enough to be that team tonight.

"We played well defensively and offensively we put the pressure on them. When you can make a team throw the ball around a little bit, sometimes they give you some."

Ripley took advantage of an early Riverside miscue to grab a first inning lead.

Vikings leadoff batter and center fielder Ali Cunningham singled to right field and advanced to second when the ball skipped past Warriors outfielder Amanda Cooper's glove.

The next hitter, starting pitcher Chelsey Hager, singled to score Cunningham to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead before the Warriors could record an out.

Ripley added a second run in the first when Dusti Fischer's two-out, infield blooper scored Hager from third.

"We've just got to show up tomorrow," Riverside Coach Mike Taylor said. "We've got to show up and play ball because (Ripley is) a very good team. They're where they are because they're a good program.

"They get runners on and they execute. They moved runners and we didn't do that today.

"Little things like that add up to 4-0. That's like when we played them up there earlier this season (a 1-0 Ripley win), we had a throwing error in the first inning and that was all she wrote. They made us pay."

Hager earned the complete-game win by scattering six singles, while striking out five.

The junior hurler also received help from solid defensive play that saved at least one run.

Hager ran into trouble in the first inning, but escaped unscathed despite three Riverside hits in the frame.

The inning ended when Cunningham threw out Warriors leadoff hitter Chelsea Diegert at the plate. Diegert was trying to score from second after a two-out Kaylee Wolfe single.

Ripley catcher Ashley Mellinger also contributed by throwing out a pair of would-be base stealers and smacking the game's only extra base hit, a sixth-inning double to deep left.

"Today we played really solid defense," Hager said. "This was a big win for us confidence wise. I know we'll come back tomorrow even stronger."

Ripley first baseman Myranda Murphy knocked in the game's other two runs with a RBI groundout in the fifth inning and a two-out, RBI single in the seventh.

Riverside was led by center fielder Destinae Schmidt's two hits.

"Hager is a tough pitcher," Taylor said. "She's a battler and she's not going to give you anything free, so we're going to have to work for it because we're in a hole."


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