By Garth Shanklin – News Democrat
ABERDEEN – The Ripley Lady Jays softball team has had quite the wait.
The team has been preparing to show off construction done on the team’s new field since the season began, but Mother Nature has not been on their side. Originally, the team was scheduled to host Southern Hills Athletic Conference foe Manchester in their home opener on March 31, but wet weather forced the postponement of that game until April 4.
So, last week, the Lady Jays prepared to host back-to-back home games: the make-up game against the Lady Hounds and then a regularly-scheduled tilt against Fayetteville on Tuesday, April 5. It was not to be, however, and the game against Manchester was cancelled yet again.
However, the Lady Jays did finally get to take their home field for the first time this season against the Fayetteville Lady Rockets. Fayetteville rolled in the game, defeating the Lady Jays 14-2, but the on-field results took a backseat to the field itself.
The Blue Jays baseball and softball teams had played on fields behind the high school in the past, but after last season’s issues the school began to look for alternate locations.
“It’s been a seven, eight month process,” Ripley Athletic Director Jordan Maiberger said. “We had the fields down behind the high school and last year was a mess. The flooding last year made the fields unplayable and it takes so long for them to get back if they flood once and it made it hard to get any games going.”
The location of the fields was the problem in this instance, according to Maiberger.
“It was in a flood plane,” Maiberger said. “Any time there was enough rain to flood, they were under water. There were times where you couldn’t see the backboard.”
As such, the Lady Jays were forced to find other fields last year, sometimes sharing the field with church groups. Maiberger said the school began the process in the middle of 2015 to make sure that didn’t happen again.
“Over the summer and late into 2015, the administration and school board began thinking about proposals on where to put a new field so we wouldn’t have to worry about the constant threat of flooding,” Maiberger said. “Our maintenance main, Dick Zurbuch, is the one who found the location behind the middle school. He asked me to get him the official measurements and everything needed for the field to comply with the OHSAA.”
Once the field itself was designed, construction began. The team was able to hold an opener last week, but there are still a few things that need to be done to the field.
“It’s still kind of a work-in-progress,” Maiberger said. “The same company is still designing some things, like longer benches because we have a lot of kids, getting roofs on the dugouts, things like that. It’s not perfect right now, but we’ll get to the point to where it’s 100 percent completed and we won’t have to worry about any of that stuff for the future.”
Though the Lady Jays have had just one home game so far, Maiberger said he has received positive feedback on the new field.
“I know myself and the administration here are happy for the girls to have a field of their own in their own little spot,” Maiberger said. “Coach [Lonnie Patrick] has done a great job keeping everything maintained and lined up. I’ve talked to officials, they like going there. We had a nice little crowd the first game, it was probably one of the most populated games we’ve had in the two years I’ve been here.”
The Lady Jays host Lynchburg on Thursday, April 14 before heading on the road for five straight games. The team will host Peebles on April 21 at 5 p.m.