Clay-Battelle catcher Katlyn Casino takes the late throw as Buffalo's Leslie Harris slides home safely at the Best of the Best Classic softball tournament Thursday in Buffalo.
BUFFALO - Buffalo went from the mountain top to the valley in a hurry Thursday at the Best of the Best Softball Classic.The Bison were sharp in dispatching Clay-Battelle 10-0 for a three-inning, mercy-rule victory in the opener of the Class A competition, but committed six errors in falling to St. Marys 7-6 in a battle of state-ranked teams in the second game of pool play.No. 4 St. Marys (13-2) scored three runs in the top of the first as the No. 1 Bison committed three errors and weren't able to recover in allowing five unearned runs. Buffalo also left five base runners on in the fifth and sixth innings combined and stranded eight total."We really just got down on ourselves,'' said Buffalo senior catcher Casey Cunningham, who went 2-for-4 and drove in a run. "All these mental errors killed us. We were hitting good, but not at the right time. We can play a lot better than that."When we lose like that we always come back with a win. We always work harder after a loss.''Buffalo couldn't have looked any better against the Cee-Bees.Bison sophomore pitcher Chelsey Parkins fired a perfect game with four strikeouts in a 25-minute victory. Senior Leslie Harris laced a triple and drove in three runs while Parkins went 2-for-2 with a triple and two RBIs and sophomore Katie Allen drove in two runs.Buffalo (14-3), the defending state champion, has been riding high since earning the top ranking in the preseason poll and has done nothing to dispute its lofty status thus far."I guess when you're in this business for 20 years you see everything,'' said Buffalo veteran coach Darrell Moore of his team's quick turn of fortunes Thursday. "This is the worst ballgame we've played for a long, long time.''
The Bison closed to 5-3 in the bottom of the third against St. Marys, but junior Abbi Fetty singled in a run to push the Blue Devils' lead to 6-3 in the top of the fourth. In the fifth, Buffalo cut its deficit to 6-4, but Fetty doubled in a run in the top of the sixth to put St. Marys ahead 7-4. After closing the gap to 7-6 in the sixth, the Bison went down in order in the bottom of the seventh."We still had an opportunity to win the ballgame,'' Moore said, "but just kept making errors. We let balls past us in the outfield. It's just contagious once you make one error. You can't do that and be a contender. [Our players will] come back, though. They're a good team.''Buffalo freshman pitcher Ali Burdette, who finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs, was removed after three innings because of shoulder problems, but stayed in to play the field. Bison sophomore leadoff hitter Katie Higginbotham went 3-for-4.St. Marys earned a nice pick-me-up win over Buffalo after falling to Man 15-7 in its first game Thursday. The Blue Devils were coming off Wednesday's 3-2 victory over AA No. 1 Ritchie County."We were coming off an emotional victory,'' said St. Marys coach John Mike Nichols. "It's the first time they beat [Ritchie] in decades. I figured we'd have a letdown."I didn't realize we'd crash into the earth. We only had about 35 minutes to shake that game. I was impressed with [our players] and the way they came back.''
St. Marys' Fetty finished 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.The Class AAA schedule of the Best of the Best begins at 4 p.m. today. All three classes will complete pool play Saturday morning, then the top four teams in each class will advance to the single-elimination playoffs. (See Page 2B for results and schedule.)Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org