CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Timely execution and a career-best pitching performance propelled the Ripley softball team past South Charleston in a Class AAA Region 3 semifinal Thursday night.
Vikings starting pitcher Chelsey Hager tossed a complete game, with 22 strikeouts, and hits didn't come with ease, though they came at the right moments as Ripley prevailed 4-1 in 11 innings. Ripley advances to host Shady Spring in the Region 3 championship at 6 p.m. May 16. The Tigers eliminated Greenbrier East in the other regional semifinal 4-0 on Thursday.
"That's the way it is sometimes: you just have to battle and battle and battle," Vikings Coach Ken Swisher said. "Once kids learn that, that they don't quit and play as a team and depend on each individual, you have a pretty good team."
After Ripley tied the contest at 1 in the seventh, neither the Vikings, nor the Black Eagles manufactured another run until the 11th.
With one out and a runner on third base, Ripley's Kelsey Moore executed a squeeze bunt to perfection. South Charleston attempted to field, but could not beat the racing runner to the plate. The run gave the Vikings a 2-1 lead.
"It was a great opportunity," Swisher said of the squeeze. "We had speed in the right place at the right time and got the ball down. It was just great execution. The kids just did exactly what we asked them to do."
Two batters later, Ashley Mellinger provided insurance with a two-out, two-run single to give Ripley a 4-1 advantage.
South Charleston Coach Bobby Catlett said the squeeze play was one he anticipated, but the Black Eagles could do nothing against the play.
"I pretty much knew it was a straight up squeeze and we had to keep that runner (from scoring)," he said. "They executed to perfection and it's hard to stop a squeeze if executed properly. We didn't get an out and that didn't help us any, then they got a base hit and got a couple more."
Ripley's offense gave the Vikings the lift to push past SC, though Hager kept Ripley within reach with her dominating pitching.
"She just carried us, and she did that since we started having to pitch her regularly, because we lost our No. 1 pitcher at the beginning of the year," Swisher said. "I saw her keep reaching back and she wouldn't take no for an answer basically. She just kept battling."