Ripley softball falls to Eastern

By Garth Shanklin – Ripley Bee

MACON — The results on the scoreboard may not be what the Ripley Lady Jays were hoping to see when the season started, but it’s clear the team is getting better as the season goes on.

Last week, the squad traveled to Eastern Brown to take on the Lady Warriors. The squad jumped ahead with three hits runs in the first inning, punctuated by pitcher Tommi Wright’s three-run home run. The team added another run in the second inning, but by that point the Lady Warriors had struck for four runs of their own.

Eastern added two runs in the bottom of the second to take a 6-4 lead and things didn’t get much better from there on the scoreboard for the Lady Jays. The Lady Warriors added their seventh and eighth runs of the contest in the third inning, tacked on another in the fourth and scored four more in the fifth.

Ripley answered with a run in the third. Wright drew a walk to lead off the frame and was retired at second base on a fielder’s choice that allowed Suzanne Dragoo to reach base.Dragoo advanced to second on a groundout, moved to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on an error by the Eastern shortstop. A double-play ended the inning, and the Lady Jays’ scoring threat. The team mustered just one more base runner over the next three frames, a walk to Wright in the fourth inning.

Head coach Lonnie Patrick said he was happy with his team’s attitude and acknowledged the mistakes the squad made were ones that had haunted them throughout the year.

“I was pleased with the attitude today,” Patrick said. “I was pleased with the effort. The mistakes that we made were the same mistakes that had hurt us all year long. We turn and throw the ball instead of settling down, we try to force things that we’re not used to. That’s all in being so young, one day we’re hoping the light turns on. They’re working hard, the girls respond well.”

The team would lose that match to the Lady Warriors 15-5. Two losses to Felicity this past weekend dropped the squad’s record to 0-8 on the season, but there’s a reason the team hasn’t had as much success as they would like to. Patrick said the team’s youth is still learning the game.

“I’m not making any excuses for the girls,” Patrick said. “We’re really young. We’ve got two juniors and we’re loaded with sophomores and freshman. It’s a big learning process.”

The four upperclassmen each had big roles in the team’s most recent games. In addition to Wright’s homerun, Dragoo started at third base and junior Peyton Dorsey leads the team in hitting.

“All four of those girls, they’re the glue of the team,” Patrick said. “That’s who the freshman and sophomores look to for leadership. Our sophomores got thrown into the fire last year because we didn’t have enough players. They’re still advancing forward. It’s not for lack of effort, just lack of time on the field and getting a chance to play.”

However, Lady Jays fans should not worry: the talent isn’t going to graduate soon. According to Patrick, the team has a group of freshman that have talent, but need to grow a bit more before they’re ready.

“We’ve got some good ones coming,” Patrick said. “Now they have to bide their time like everyone else, learn and keep pushing forward.”

One thing Patrick and the Ripley coaching staff refuse to do is let the team’s morale drop too low. Patrick said they’re constantly focusing on the positives.

“We always try to make the girls feel good,” Patrick said. “I don’t want to drag them down, we try to make the positives and forget about the negatives and keep pushing forward.”

Ripley plays host to the Peebles Lady Indians on Thursday, April 21 at 5 p.m. The team will also welcome New Richmond to town for a non-conference doubleheader on Saturday, April 23 at 12 p.m.