SR girls flex muscle, win 1st regional title
Photo by Brenda Strimple
Some teams play small ball to win championships, others rely on defense and then there’s South Ripley softball … who plays long ball to get the job done. Four home runs later on Tuesday night, the Lady Raiders convincingly laid claim to their first-ever Class 2A Regional Championship, bashing Mitchell 11-1 in six innings in the title clash played at home.
The game marked just the third regional appearance by South Ripley and its first since 2001 when the Lady Raiders advanced to the Class A Regional but fell to eventual state champion Forest Park. It was just the third regional championship hosted by the school itself after having hosted the 2001 Class 2A Girls Basketball Regional Championship at Tyson Auditorium and the 2008 Class 2A Baseball Regional Championship.
Ripley wasted no time in starting its home run party as Brionna Linkel led off the bottom of the first inning with a towering solo shot to right center field but the bats went quiet for the next three innings as pitching gave way to a low-scoring affair.
With South Ripley’s Mady Tompkins and Mitchell’s Avery Southern dealing inside the circle, a stalemate was finally broken up in the top of the fourth when the Bluejackets scored an unearned run to tie the game 1-1. But the tie lasted just one frame and the Lady Raiders went back to work in a big way.
The home run bash resumed in the bottom of the fifth as Hailey Brown gave South Ripley a 3-1 advantage and the two-run dinger to deep left field was followed up by the blazing speed of Alexa Heidt who not only scored Ellie Waldron from first base, but turned a long fly ball on the same hit into an inside-the-park home run for a 5-1 lead. Ripley proceeded to keep pouring on runs an inning later in the bottom of the sixth as the margin shot up to 7-1, setting up an emphatic ending to the night.
With bases loaded, Tompkins stepped up to the plate and crushed a walk-off grand slam to center field, not only giving South Ripley the regional championship but doing so in a “Sweet 16” game that was called in the bottom of the sixth with the 10-run mercy rule in effect. It was one of three Class 2A regional games decided by the 10-run rule on Tuesday night.
Of the 11 hits by South Ripley in the game, four were home runs and another was a double by Linkel who finished the night going 3-for-4 with the extra bagger, a home run, three runs and two RBIs. Heidt was 2-for-2 with a home run, two RBIs and a run and Tompkins finished with the grand slam, a run and four runs driven in. Brown was 1-for-3, scoring two runs and driving in three in addition to her homer.
Mitchell (17-12) had two hits apiece by Audrey Young, Josie Campbell and Malaya Tangalo with Tangalo driving in the team’s lone run. None of the seven hits for the Bluejackets went for extra bases.
Tompkins earned yet another postseason pitching win for the Lady Raiders in a complete game effort. The junior tossed six innings and allowed the unearned run on seven hits while striking 11 batters and walking just one. Her counterpart, Southern, was hit with the loss for Mitchell and allowed 11 runs -10 earned- on nine hits with six walks and four strikeouts.
South Ripley earned itself the regional bid last Thursday night with a dominating 6-0 win over a Switzerland County team it had split the regular season series with at one game apiece.
The Class 2A Sectional 45 Championship game played in Vevay saw Ripley jump out to a 1-0 lead on Switzerland County ace Lily Sparks and then up the advantage to 3-0 in the fourth inning when a wild pitch scored a run and Ellie Waldron crushed a solo home run to left field. The Lady Raiders added three more runs in the sixth inning and completed the shutout an inning later to win the program’s first sectional title since 2001.
After the two teams combined for just two runs on less than five hits in a pair of regular season games, the Lady Raiders went for seven hits in the championship affair with Waldron going 2-for-3 with a double, home run, a run and an RBI. Tompkins drove in two runs and had a hit and Brown added a hit and scored two runs.
Tompkins was dominant inside the circle and proved to be the better pitcher between her and Sparks on Thursday evening. The Lady Raider ace twirled a gem, allowing just five hits in the seven-inning shutout and punching out 17 Switzerland County batters, a single-game school record for strikeouts and unofficially marking a Top 20 performance all-time in regards to strikeouts in a postseason game in state history.
South Ripley (15-6) faces Class 2A No. 11 Sullivan in the semifinals of the Forest Park Semi-State on Saturday at 1 p.m. The first semifinal at 11 a.m. features Class 2A No. 3 Union County against Class 2A No. 8 South Vermillion and the championship game is slated for 7 p.m.