Players from state qualifying teams enjoy food, music

VIENNA – Just up the hill from where they will battle for West Virginia high school state softball supremacy today and Thursday, it was a good time for the players from the contending teams at the annual pre-state tournament pizza party and get-together Tuesday evening at Jackson Park.

According to tournament director Norm Harris of Vienna Parks and Recreation, the three fields used for state-tourney play – one for each class – are “ready to go right now. We’re prepped for the worst (rain and thunderstorms), but hopefully that won’t occur.”

Harris noted even through several disruptive bouts with nagging rain in the last 10 years of the event here, “‘we’ve only had to go into the (extra day) rain date once. We’ve been able to finish every other tournament on time except for that one.”

As the girls celebrated being at the state tournament on its eve by eating pizza and maybe mingling with and getting to know some players on other teams, they spent most of the time enjoying themselves by dancing to a variety of music from DJ Randy Kinsolving.

For Class AA Ritchie County, one of two-Mid-Ohio Valley entrants in this year’s tournament along with Class AAA Ripley, sophomore pitcher Moie Ray was on the Rebel squad last year that bowed out in the state finals to Wayne, the same team Ritchie faces in an opening-round game at 10 a.m. today.

“I enjoy the party and I do dance, but I’d rather scout out the teams than party,” said Ray, who thinks “we’ve done a really great job pulling together this year. We’re a young team anyway – we only have two seniors – so we’ve all had to work really hard to get back here, and are obviously super-excited about that.”

Losing in the finals last year was the Rebels’ main motivation to earn a return trip this season, said Ray. “And I think we’ll make sure here this year that doesn’t happen again,” she added.

Today, Ritchie senior first baseman Cassidy Ray (no relation) will have been to the state tournament all four years in her high school career, because the Rebels have pretty much made this an annual occurrence lately. “I feel really good about our team; I think we have strong hitters all throughout our lineup and our defense is the best in the state,” she said.