Buffalo's Whitney Dingess takes a throw to force Moorefield's Ashley Rexrode.
VIENNA, W.Va. - Buffalo stretched the notion that pitching and defense win games.Ali Burdette tossed a nine-hit shutout and provided all the offense with a solo home run to lead Buffalo to its third straight 1-0 victory, this time over Moorefield on Thursday for their third straight Class A state championship. A heavy contingent of fans dressed in Buffalo yellow lined the first-base side of Field 1 at Jackson Park.The Bison leaned heavily on the pitching duo of Burdette, a sophomore, and junior Chelsey Parkins, and the two didn't disappoint at the state tournament. All three of Buffalo's wins at the two-day tourney were 1-0 squeakers."You can talk about any pitchers in the state and I'll take my two,'' smiled Buffalo coach Darrell Moore. "They'll pitch with anybody."They play with a lot of composure. They don't get rattled. You win three ballgames 1-0, that's got to say something about their character. They love to win, they play hard and they don't make a lot of mistakes.''Burdette opened Wednesday's state tournament by firing a three-hit shutout with seven strikeouts in a 1-0 win over Wheeling Central, which was the last Class A school to beat Buffalo this season with an 11-9 decision on March 20. Parkins matched that with a two-hit shutout and nine punchouts in a 1-0 decision over Moorefield during Wednesday's evening session."We know Wheeling Central and Moorefield have great bats and we had to hit our spots to keep them off balance. If we threw an outside pitch we'd come back with an inside pitch. Throwing a changeup in there every once in a while so they never know what to expect. '"During sectionals and regionals we've been pitching every day,'' added Parkins. "Just getting prepared for this. We knew we were the two that were going to pitch. We just practice every day, every practice.''
Moorefield put runners on first and second with one out in the top of the seventh Thursday, but Burdette fanned the last two batters, sending Buffalo's players into a mass of humanity between the circle and first base.Buffalo junior center fielder Katie Higginbotham threw out the Yellow Jackets' Ashley Rexrode at home plate in the third and Burdette worked around the hits to strand 10 runners. Burdette, Christy and Parkins earned all-tournament selections."Ali was really good [against Moorefield],'' said Parkins, who started at shortstop Thursday. "We just showed her, 'We've got your back even if they do hit you. Don't worry about anything.'''Burdette, who also doubled, smacked the round-tripper as the second batter in the first inning. Bison freshman catcher Chase Christy went 2 for 3.
"It was nerve-wracking,'' Burdette said. "As I went on I got more confident in myself and our team.'' Top-ranked Buffalo (34-4), which also captured state titles in 2002 and 2004 and now has five in all, won 30 games for the third consecutive season and advanced to states for the third year in a row, both program firsts. The Bison also ended the year on a 22-game winning streak. All of that has been accomplished without a senior in the starting lineup."The first one was fantastic because it was the first one in school history,'' said Moore, who guided Buffalo to three straight titles for the first time. "In 2004 it was a great championship because we had so many seniors. The last three years this group has been such a hard-working group and I feel so good for them.
"Even though we've won three in row we never take them for granted,'' added Burdette. "We take pride in them."It was a tough loss for No. 3 Moorefield (30-7), which lost to Buffalo in the state championship game for the second straight year. The Yellow Jackets battled back after falling to the Bison 1-0 Wednesday then edging No. 2 Wheeling Central 7-6 in Thursday's elimination game."We didn't hit when we needed to,'' said Yellow Jackets first-year coach Tammie Ayers. "We just needed a couple of hits."I'm very proud of these girls. They've stuck together. They've overcome a lot this year. We had some issues in the community and they've just had to stick together and prove to everybody they would end up in the state tournament.''Beth Cook and Katelynn Wills pounded out two hits apiece, including a double each, for Moorefield. Cook, Danica Rogers and Brooke Riggleman were all-tournament picks for the Yellow Jackets.Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.