RIPLEY, W.Va. - Ripley coach Shane Casto chose to stick with a gut decision he made on Monday and was rewarded in a huge way on Wednesday.Vikings freshman Logan McCoy was a seventh-inning single away from a no-hitter and struck out six in a shutout as Ripley dispatched of Capital 7-0 in the first game of the Class AAA Region 3 Section 4 baseball tournament Wednesday evening.McCoy played his Little League ball in Charleston with many of the members of the Cougars' team before moving to Ripley before high school.The lefty was slated to get the ball during the sectional opener Monday because sophomore Isaac Koontz was dealing with some arm soreness.After play was delayed two days to Wednesday, Koontz's condition improved, but Casto chose to ride the freshman anyway and the youngster turned in an absolute gem in the biggest of spots, mixing his off-speed pitches and fastball while pounding the strike zone."He's thrown extremely well for us the last three outings he's had," Casto said. "We'd talked about, 'who are we going to go with, who are we going to go with.' [Koontz's] arm was really sore on Monday so we decided to go with McCoy. Today his arm was feeling better and I said 'You know what, we told [McCoy] he'd pitch,' and I stuck with the gut feeling. He did a heck of a job for us and I couldn't ask for anything more."Casto probably felt that way about his entire team after the Vikings (10-21) backed McCoy with flawless defense and pounded out 13 hits against a pair of Cougars pitchers. The offense really took off the second time through the lineup against Capital starter Kaleb Kinder.In the third inning, with two outs and no runners on, Ripley pounded out six straight hits, highlighted by a three-run home run from senior left fielder Tyler Pittenger.That inning resulted in a 4-0 Ripley lead, which was way more than McCoy needed.
Pittenger went 4 for 4, fell a triple short of the cycle and drove in four runs."I just go out and do my job and whatever happens, happens," Pittenger said.The Vikings are riding a four-game win streak after not winning more than two in a row all season."The last four games [Pittenger's] been 3 for 4, 4 for 5, 3 for 4, and now four hits tonight," Casto said. "He's just unconscious right now at the plate and everything he's hitting he's hitting hard. He's an everyday starter we've had for three years and I'm glad he's going out toward the end of his career with a bang."
The Vikings' streak started with a 16-8 win over Class AA No. 5 Poca and included an impressive 12-3 win over Class AA No. 1 Herbert Hoover on May 2, reversing a 14-0 loss to the Huskies just nine days prior."We're starting to play a lot better," Casto said. "Here lately we've beaten some pretty good teams. [The Hoover win] was huge for us, especially considering a week and a half before they beat us 14-0 and two-hit us. Hopefully we're starting to click at the right time and maybe we'll make some noise with these young fellas."
Capital coach Robert Massey was waiting on his team to make any noise at all on Wednesday and it just never came. Credit Massey for telling his team to yell for Jacob Williams to "break up the no-no" the pitch before he did just that to lead off the seventh.Still, it was far too little, too late, and now the Cougars (13-18) will fight for their playoff lives at Riverside today and likely face Warriors ace Tyler Hall."You go in this and you look that you might not have to face Tyler Hall if you win tonight but we dug ourselves a hole," Massey said. "Now we're [probably] going to have to face Tyler Hall. I've said he's the best player in the section and I'm going to stand by that. We got one-hit today and he could no-hit us tomorrow. He's that good."I've told our guys all year that we just need to make routine plays, we didn't do that tonight - we've got to get guys on, we didn't do that either - you just can't win."The Vikings, who Casto bragged, "finally have five kids that can drive," are starting to dare to dream big. After entering the postseason basically playing with house money, why not?"We're starting to click at the right time," McCoy said. "I think we've got a good chance. We can go a long way this year."
Pittenger wasn't so reserved with his prediction."I'm going to states," he said.Trevor Tucker went 3 for 4 and Chris Jordan added a pair of hits for Ripley. Koontz finished 2 for 2 with an RBI.The Vikings will play at Riverside at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.