BUFFALO, W.Va. — To the untrained eye the Daily Mail Class A softball poll might contain something of a curiosity near the top of its rankings.
After all, Buffalo — a team with a sub.-500 record — was ranked second in a survey of sportswriters from across the state. While on the surface it might seem that the Bison are struggling in the early part of their quest for a fourth consecutive state championship, a closer look and a talk with Buffalo coach Darrell Moore show that panic is far from setting in.
“It’s still real early. We’re not worried right now,” Moore said last week. “Once we hit Best of the Best, that’s when we want to start hitting our stride.”
Moore’s allusion to the Buffalo-hosted softball showcase was in this case less self-promotion and more an assessment of his team’s season to date. The Bison began the year with losses in five of their first six games but with Best of the Best set to open Thursday morning, the Bison have reeled off three consecutive wins. They travel to Class AA No. 3 Sissonville today for their lone pre-tournament game of the week.
Moore’s lack of immediate concern might come off as overconfidence if Buffalo’s results are not inspected. In the Bison’s first six games they dropped decisions to Class AAA No. 6 Lincoln County (by a score of 5-0) and Point Pleasant (5-4), Class AA Sissonville (11-3) and Scott (4-0) and a 3-1 final at Class A No. 3 Sherman.
The Bison’s win streak consists of a 10-0 win over Class A No. 6 Charleston Catholic, a 12-0 revenge win over Sherman and a 9-0 win over Wahama.
The message seems pretty clear: Buffalo has found its bats, and when paired up against Class A competition, the Bison still dominate. The Bison have rolled up 31 runs in their last three games after being held to 18 in their first six.
“People might look at our record right now and wonder, but we’ve been playing some really good teams,” Moore said after the win over Catholic. “More than anything right now the girls just needed to get their confidence back.”
So far, senior All-State shortstop and pitcher Ali Burdette is hitting .555 but has found it hard to get a pitch to hit. Burdette has just 18 at-bats as the No. 3 hitter in the Buffalo lineup. Fellow All-State pitcher and infielder Chelsey Parkins, who hit her first home run since her freshman year last week against Charleston Catholic, is hitting .500. Noell Dingess is hitting .421 entering the week and senior All-State outfielder Katie Higginbotham is at .393.
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AS HAS been the case in each of the past two seasons, the biggest difference between Class AAA No. 1 Hurricane (11-0) and other teams with state title ambitions might actually come at the bottom of the Redskins’ lineup.
In last week’s 9-8 win over Cabell Midland, the Redskins got five runs from the bottom three hitters in their lineup — sophomore left fielder Amber Null, freshman catcher Katie Adams and sophomore right fielder Abigail Osborne. The trio, which includes two first-year starters in Adams and Osborne — combined to go 6 for 12 with two RBI, and Null smacked a pair of doubles in the win.
Null moved from right field to left this season, with All-State outfielder Addie Fullen moving from left to center to replace Nicole Pierson, who graduated after Hurricane’s 2013 state championship. Adams, one of the area’s top pitching prospects entering high school, replaced All-State catcher Linzie Reynolds.
“I haven’t made many changes to the lineup, but those girls have stepped into important roles and so far they’ve done a really good job,” Hurricane coach Josh Caldwell said after the win over Midland. “Amber Null had a couple big hits tonight and is doing a good job making the adjustment to left field.”
Hurricane still has 2013 state Player of the Year Courtney Rogers, Fullen and second team All-State second baseman Madison Casto near the top of the order, as well as three-year starters Cassi Sargent and Emily Davis at shortstop and third base, respectively.
“Having those girls produce at the bottom of the order really helps, because it keeps things going with our offense,” Caldwell said.
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THROUGH FOUR weeks of the 2014 season there are only four teams among 13 in the Kanawha Valley that have winning records. Joining Hurricane above the .500 mark are Class AA No. 2 Herbert Hoover (12-3), Charleston Catholic (12-4) and Sissonville (8-4).
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.