Chelsey Parkins (left) and Ali Burdette give Buffalo a formidable one-two punch heading into the state tournament.
BUFFALO, W.Va. - The fact that all-state players Chelsey Parkins and Ali Burdette occupy the same positions for Buffalo might be cause for controversy in some programs.Each is good enough to be the No. 1 pitcher on any team plus take on the responsibilities of being the top run producer on offense. The two, though, happily share the same space on the diamond and have become the best of friends in the process.Parkins and Burdette look to take the Bison to new heights as they open the Class A state tournament today in Jackson Park in Vienna. Top-ranked Buffalo (31-4) squares off with No. 2 Wheeling Central (21-8) at 9:45 a.m. in the double-elimination event.Behind the arms and bats of Parkins and Burdette, the two-time defending state champion Bison are breaking new ground. Buffalo won 30 games and advanced to states for the third year in a row, both program firsts. Buffalo is also seeking its third straight title, which it has never done."We don't care who the pitcher is,'' said Buffalo coach Darrell Moore. "Whoever comes up is who pitches. They just compliment each other really well. They mean a lot to our team. They're the heart of the team."There's never any conflict at all with them. They're both just wonderful kids. They're 3.5 and above students. They're kind of quiet, but they show their leadership more by their ability to play the game hard.''Parkins and Burdette rotate in the circle and at shortstop, but both have thrived under those circumstances. Parkins earned her second straight all-state first-team selection last year while Burdette made her first one as a freshman."We work very well on the field together,'' said Parkins. "If one of us is having a bad game the other one can step right in. I think we both want the best for each other. If [Burdette is] pitching good that week [she is] the one that should be pitching."We don't see it as competition,'' added Burdette. "We want to do what's best for the team. If one of our pitches aren't working we can tell each other what we're doing wrong. It takes a lot of pressure off us. We support each other. My freshman year I looked up to [Parkins] and asked her questions about how it was going to be in high school. She helped me along.''
Parkins, who is getting looks from West Virginia State among other colleges, owns a 14-1 record with a 0.88 earned run average with 151 strikeouts in 96 innings with two no-hitters this season. She also carries a .553 batting average with 50 RBIs, 17 doubles, five triples and 24 stolen bases.Burdette, who has had Marshall coaches at several games this year, sports a 15-2 mark with a 0.93 ERA and 147 punchouts in 98 innings with two no-hitters. She bats .500 with 43 RBIs, 14 doubles, five triples and six home runs. "They're both just great assets to our program,'' Moore said. "They set a great example for our young kids. Work ethic is the main thing."Our kids look up to them because they know they're going to put the hours in. It's just phenomenal how they've stepped up and the other kids are stepping up to play their game better, too.''Parkins' and Burdette's careers began intersecting several years ago when they started playing together in Little League and through middle school. They also were on the same basketball teams in middle school and at Buffalo.The pair has never allowed animosity or jealously become part of the team dynamic.
"We know a lot about each other and have become really good friends over the years, not only on the softball field but off,'' said Burdette. "We went to the movies this weekend. We hang out and have the same classes and always talk.''"We're really good friends,'' added Parkins. "We just have each others' back through anything.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.