Hurricane in AAA driver’s seat; Ripley first team out

VIENNA -Ripley’s stay in the Class AAA state high school softball tournament at Jackson Park on Wednesday was short, but it certainly wasn’t sweet.

The Vikings, whose previous appearance at Jackson Park resulted in winning the 2009 state championship, were the first team to be eliminated, dropping a 3-2 opening-round game to Jefferson, then being ousted with an 8-3 loss in the loser’s bracket game against Wheeling Park.

Meanwhile, a team making its first state tournament appearance, Hurricane, is the driver’s seat to win the Class AAA state championship today after recording a pair of wins on Wednesday. The Redskins (32-6) opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Wheeling Park and followed that up with an 11-4 spanking of Jefferson in the winner’s bracket contest.

Hurricane’s two Wednesday victims -21-6 Wheeling Park and 21-9 Jefferson – will meet at 9:30 this morning to determine who will go up against the Redskins for the Class AAA state championship at 2 p.m. Whoever wins this morning’s game will have to beat the Redskins twice while Hurricane needs just one victory to claim an historic crown.

Hurricane and Wheeling Park treated fans who showed up for Wednesday morning’s big school opener to a classic. Pitchers Courtney Brown of Hurricane and Carly Greer of Wheeling Park hooked up in a duel that saw Hurricane score a run in the bottom of the fourth and take a 1-0 lead to the top of the seventh. That’s when Wheeling Park tied the game without a hit. The Patriots took advantage of a pair of walks, an error and two fielders choices to knot the game at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh.

But Hurricane didn’t play like a team making its first tournament appearance. Rather, it played with a purpose as Addie Fulton led off with a single, took second on a walk to Emily Davis and scored the game-winning run on a single by Amber Null.

The crowd hardly had recovered from that initial nail-biter when it was treated to another. This time it was Ripley’s Chelsey Hager and Jefferson’s Alexandra Witt who dominated opposing hitters as the game was scoreless through the first five innings.

Ripley took advantage of a leadoff walk to Ali Cunningham as she scored on a throwing error to give the Vikings a 1-0 edge. Jefferson tied the game in its half of the sixth, scoring thanks to a leadoff single by Lauren Lewis, who advanced on a fielder’s choice, a wild pitch and a throwing error.

It was 1-1 heading to the seventh inning and what a wild frame it was. The Vikings took a 2-1 lead when Ashley Mellinger lead off with a single and scored thanks to a sacrifice and a pair of Cougar errors. Ripley was three outs away from victory but never recorded them as Jefferson used two walks and four hits, including the game-winner by Witt, to take a stunning 3-2 victory.

The Vikings never recovered, dropping the loser’s bracket contest to Wheeling Park, 8-3, as Greer drove in four runs for the Patriots, who led 8-1 going into the bottom of the seventh. Kelsey Moore was 3-for-3 for Ripley with a pair of RBIs.

The winner’s bracket final also was one-sided as Hurricane scored seven runs in the first three innings to dominate Jefferson, who managed a pair of scores in both the third and the fourth.