The Ripley Tigers have made a habit of district titles and deep playoff runs over the last four years. They have the pieces in place for more of the same.
The success the Tigers had last year was nothing new as they have proven to be among the top programs in North Mississippi. They claimed their 4th straight district title with a win on Senior night last season.
Ripley followed that up with a trip to the third round of the playoffs, again for the fourth straight season, before ultimately falling to Pontotoc.
The Tigers will look to replace the leadership and skill of last seasons graduates, no small task, but they seem to be more of a “reload” as opposed to “rebuild” program. Here are some keys to this season.
The Tigers bring back one of the areas top pitchers in multi-year ace Cade Davis. Davis, an EMCC signee, brings an overpowering arm to the mound and will anchor the Tiger rotation.
Ripley has made a habit of both situational pitching and spreading out innings, so look for more of the same this season with Micah Johnston set to get lots of innings. Sophmore Conner Graves will also be in the mix this season, as will Lucas Cartwright and several others.
The Tigers have made a habit of being fundamentally sound on defense and that trend should continue in 2020. When Davis is not on the mound, he will line up at first base. There are several positions that are interchangeable for Ripley.
Hayden Fortune will get looks all over the field, including at catcher along with Reed Shackelford. Jak Ketchum will be one of the steady faces in the outfield, along with Drew Coombs.
Cartwright will line up at several positions in the infield as the Tigers make adjustments based on who is pitching, opponent and situation.
The Tigers have the ability to play for both power and for getting people on base and moving them around.
Hayden Fortune returns to help fill some of the void left by Ben Fryar. Fortune brings a steady approach as well as the capability for a big hit at any time.
Davis, Coombs, Ketchum and Shackelford all have experience in the Tiger lineup.
Keys to the season
The Tigers bring back 9 players with experience, a good rotation and several capable players at key positions. Those are typically a recipe for success.
Head Coach Joel Gafford has built a power of the Tigers, and their streak of success should continue this season.
North Pontotoc, a state champion in 3A last year, moves in to the district this season as a new challenger to the Ripley crown.