By Garth Shanklin – Ripley Bee
ABERDEEN — Softballs were flying all over the place on a windy Saturday as the Ripley Lady Jays hosted the New Richmond Lady Lions for a softball doubleheader.
The Lady Jays started the afternoon with a 19-1 loss. The Lady Lions scored one run in the first inning and were held scoreless in the second.
Ripley put a run on the board in their half of the first inning. After the leadoff hitter was hit with a pitch, Payton Whitt reached on an error and Tommie Wright walked to load the bases. Meggie Scott grounded into a 1-3 fielder’s choice, scoring Lewis to tie the game.
New Richmond untied the game in a big way in the third inning. The Lady Lions batted around, scoring seven runs to take an 8-1 lead. In the fourth inning, the team struck again, crossing the plate 11 times to push the score to 19-1.
The second game of the doubleheader was much better from an offensive standpoint for the Lady Jays. New Richmond struck for 12 runs in the first three innings, but Ripley answered in their half of the third.
Elizabeth Wietzer led off the inning with a double. Lewis singled her home, then crossed the plate herself on a triple by Whitt. Wright launched a double to score Whitt for the Lady Jays’ third run. The squad’s fourth run scored when Wright crossed the plate on a base hit by Suzanne Dragoo.
The Lady Lions struck for three more runs in the fourth, but Ripley answered with four more runs in their half of the inning. Lewis tripled and Whitt drew a walk. Both runners scored on an error by the Lady Lions’ center fielder, though Wright was thrown out between second and third.
Scott then singled and the next batter reached base on an error. Dragoo drew a walk followed by another error on the Lady Lions, which scored a run. The Lady Jays would load the bases with another walk, but were unable to score any more runs in the inning..
The Lady Jays showed a lot at the plate in the second game, and adding those eight runs to the 10 runs that crossed the board when the squad fell to West Union earlier in the week shows the team’s offense is starting to pick things up.
“We’re starting to hit the ball,” Head coach Lonnie Patrick said. “They’re starting to learn to believe in themselves and that they can hit the ball. That was the biggest thing, they’re scared and shy about getting at the plate. We’ve been trying to force them into swinging and to be aggressive. My sophomores are starting to attack the ball. My juniors and seniors have always been aggressive. We’ve got some freshman that can really hit the ball but they’re a little on the shy side.”
New Richmond head coach Jim Reaker said his team’s offense has been solid all season long, primarily due to the depth in the team’s lineup.
“This is a very talented offensive team,” Reaker said. “I’ve got seven or eight girls who can flat-out hit. We struggled a little bit at the beginning of the first game because we had to adjust to the pitching. We’re just very talented, we can score runs.”
One thing both coaches mentioned as issues that needed fixed were errors.
“We have to have more control and patience on defense and quit throwing the ball away,” Patrick said. “It’s going to come. I think before the end of the year the girls are going to turn this around and come tournament time they’re going to get at it.
Reaker echoed that statement, noting that his team may need to rely on some of their younger players to straighten out the defense.
“They’re plays that should be made,” Reaker said. “Physical errors. Most of my infielders are juniors and sophomores. I have seven seniors but some of them haven’t played that much. We’ve got a few weeks to the tournament, so if we can get that fixed we might be able to really do something.”
Patrick added he believed the Lady Jays were close to breaking through, as long as the team’s attitude stays positive.
“We keep drilling in the girls: stay positive, don’t ever give up,” Patrick said. “They’re going to get better, we just have to keep pushing as hard as we can. I see the improvement, and I truly think things are going to turn around in the next week or two.”
Ripley hosts Whiteoak on Thursday, April 28 at 5 p.m. The team will pay a visit to the Bethel-Tate Lady Tigers on Monday, May 2 at 4:30.