Ripley's Ali Cunningham slides safely into second base, ahead of the tag by Riverside's Felicia Burton.
QUINCY, W.Va. -- Sara Winter couldn't have dreamed of a better ending Friday night.The Riverside senior belted a home run in the top of the seventh inning, the first of her four-year high school career, as host Riverside staved off elimination with a 12-8 victory over Ripley in the Class AAA Region 3 Section 4 softball tournament. A crowd of about 100 attended the matchup at Riverside High School.Riverside (20-15) will host Ripley (15-6) at 1 p.m. today in the deciding game. Ripley finished No. 10 in the final state sportswriters' Class AAA poll. The winner advances to Thursday's Region 3 semifinal at South Charleston.After both the Vikings and Warriors beat Capital to eliminate the Cougars, Ripley shut out Riverside 4-0 Thursday in the double-elimination tournament."The difference today, we came here to win,'' said Winter. "[Thursday night] we didn't leave on a good note. We knew we weren't expected to win [Friday] and this season we're here to prove people wrong.''Ripley scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth Friday, highlighted by Myranda Murphy's two-out, two-run single, to close within 10-8 and seize the momentum. Winter answered in the top of the seventh with a two-out, two-run shot to center field on a 3-2 count to set the final score and give the Warriors some breathing room."It felt really good to do it in sectionals and definitely in a game we were not expected to win,'' beamed Winter, who said that Friday's round-tripper was only the second she had hit at any level."When I got here today I told myself I was going to hit the ball and I wasn't going to strike out. [Thursday] I didn't have very good at-bats. When I got down 3-2 I was just really looking to hit the ball. I didn't feel the home run, but I saw it so that makes it even better.''
Winter and the Warriors, though, weren't out of the woods yet. The Vikings' Dusti Fisher led off the bottom of the seventh with a double, but Winter, who relieved in the second inning, forced a groundout and a fly out before striking out the Vikings' Reiley Simpkins to end the game.Winter finished 2 for 5 with a homer, three RBIs and two runs scored. She also scattered nine hits and six runs (four earned) in the final six innings with three strikeouts and no walks. Amanda Cooper rapped out three hits and had three RBIs for Riverside while Chelsea Diegert knocked in two runs."It was just attitude and effort,'' said Riverside coach Mike Taylor, whose team seized the lead in the top of the first and never lost it. "[Our players] just played with a lot of emotion."We had a real good talk [Thursday] after the game. We had a little team circle that we do and I said, 'Figure this out. You've got to decide if your season's over.' They talked for 10 minutes and several of them came back with tears in their eyes. I'm proud of them. They didn't fold.''Fisher went 4 for 4 with a double and RBI for Ripley while Kelsey Moore and Darby Peterson drove in a run apiece."There's no excuses, [Riverside] just outplayed us,'' said Ripley coach Ken Swisher, whose squad committed seven errors. "I guess they wanted it more than we did. We couldn't field the ball and it became contagious.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.