Champion Bison came well-armed
By Derek Taylor
Charleston Daily Mail
A high school softball team rarely makes its way through the West Virginia state tournament without giving up a run.
Only once has a team managed to navigate the tournament's double-elimination format by scoring only three runs and yet still emerged with a state championship.
In winning its third consecutive Class A state championship, Buffalo accomplished both feats last week in Vienna. A quick glance over the Class A all-state team released today, it might not come as such a shock that the Bison was able to win three straight 1-0 games against the state's best competition.
Buffalo junior Chelsey Parkins was selected as captain of the all-state team by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, and is joined on the 18-player list by teammates Ali Burdette and Katie Higginbotham.
Higginbotham, a junior, was named as an outfielder while Parkins and Burdette - a sophomore who went 2-0 in the state tournament - claimed two of the five pitchers' spots, a rarity for one school.
Burdette finished the season 16-2 with 162 strikeouts in 112 innings. She had a 0.86 ERA. Parkins was 15-1 with 161 strikeouts in 104 innings, and posted a 0.84 ERA. Parkins led the team in hitting with a .523 average, 17 doubles and 50 RBIs.
Burdette hit .486 with six home runs, 15 doubles and 44 RBIs.
Buffalo won 23 games by shutout and held 32 of 38 opponents to two or fewer runs in compiling a 34-4 record, making the placement of Burdette and Parkins easy to understand, although each played shortstop while not pitching.
"It was very important to keep other teams from scoring this year," Parkins said. "I was mainly focusing on hitting my spots, and I knew I had a defense behind me to back me up."
Parkins said the importance of defense became heightened during the state tournament. Although she, Burdette and Higginbotham each entered the tournament with batting averages around the .500 mark, run production became a challenge.
"We were definitely not hitting the ball like we had been during the season. We showed it only takes one run to win," she said.
Higginbotham said the ability of Parkins and Burdette to keep runs off the board made the young Bison hitters relax. The team had no senior starters.
"Offensively, it pumps us up," Higginbotham said. "It calms our nerves and me, personally, I feel more confidence in the box. I focus better because I'm not as nervous.
"Our defense in the title game was phenomenal. The whole tournament it was sound. It won those ball games.''
While her stats and Parkins' were similar, Burdette said that had more to do with the pitchers' supporting cast.
"I think it's important to have a good defense behind the pitcher to take some of the pressure off of them," Burdette said. "That's what our defense did at the state tournament."
Only one Class A program has won more than three Class A titles in a row. Wheeling Central won seven straight from 1995-2001, a string that began just one year after the sport was broken into three competitive classes.
The Maroon Knights were again part of the state tournament as the Region 1 champion in 2013, falling in the losers bracket final. Senior Sarah Henry was named to the all-state team as a pitcher, while sophomore Sydney Barrington (.457, 4 HR, 24 RBI) was named as an infielder.
Moorefield, which lost to Buffalo in the state title game for the second year in a row, also had two players named to the team. Junior Danica Rogers was the Yellow Jackets' ace and thus named as a pitcher. Junior Beth Cook hit .644 with nine HRs, 14 doubles and 37 RBIs and was named as an infielder.
Pitching statistics for Central's Henry and Moorefield's Rogers were not provided by their coaches. Numbers were also not provided for the Man duo of senior pitcher Taylor Tomblin and senior catcher Summer Sword, though both earned all-state spots based on their success throughout the course of the year as well as support given to the players by writers and opposing coaches.
Doddridge County senior Ashlie LaFalce returned to the all-state team as a catcher, hitting .448 with five HRs and 29 RBIs.
The remainder of the infield was made up of St. Marys senior Abbi Fetty (.564), Doddridge County junior Lacy Perkins (.420, 13 doubles, 22 RBIs) and Sherman senior Mackenzie Smith (.410, 10 HRs, 36 RBIs).
Higginbotham became a two-time selection in the outfield after hitting .462 with 31 stolen bases. She was joined in the all-state outfield by Wirt County senior Emily Ohrm (.415, four HRs, seven triples, 20 RBIs) and St. Marys sophomore Mikaela Britton (.592, eight doubles).
South Harrison senior Jessica Puddister became a four-time selection - she made the team as a freshman when the Hawks won their only state title in 2010 - after hitting .463 with 20 RBIs and striking out 95 batters. Puddister was named as a utility player.
Also named at utility were Magnolia junior Mallory Chapman (.563, five HRs and 165 strikeouts as a pitcher) and Gilmer County junior Julie Bishop (.459, 34 RBIs, 12-4 with 71 K).