BUFFALO — Buffalo pitcher Ali Burdette got the annual Best of the Best softball tournament under way in fitting fashion Thursday afternoon.
Burdette, a junior who already has twice been named to the Class A All-State team in her career, struck out 13 Nicholas County batters while pitching a no-hitter in an 8-0 Bison win that was ended after six innings by the sport’s mercy rule.
Burdette struck out at least two batters in each inning as the three-time defending Class A state champions evened their record at 5-5. The Grizzlies (11-5), who were playing an early game that followed a 6-5 win at James Monroe in Lindside on Wednesday night, struck out looking on five occasions.
While the only time Burdette struck out the side was in the second inning, she said it was the later innings of the win in which she felt best.
“Before the game I just tried to warm up really good. I do before every game because it takes me a while to get in a groove of things,” Burdette said. “It seems the more I throw in a game the better I get.”
Burdette did not throw a pitch without a lead. The Bison lost the coin flip to determine the home team prior to the game, but singles by seniors Katie Higginbotham and Chelsey Parkins opened the game. Burdette follwed with a double down the right field line that scored Higginbotham and was then mishandled by Grizzlies junior Emily Culver, allowing Burdette to advance to third and Parkins to score.
Sophomore catcher Chase Christy then drove a single to left field that scored Burdette and gave the pitcher a 3-0 lead to work with from the outset of her day.
“Obviously she throws hard, but her ball has great movement and good placement,” Christy said of her battery mate’s performance.
“She never really misses any spots. It’s just always right there,” Christy said. “She makes my job easier as a catcher.”
Christy had a heavy hand in ending the game early, going 2 for 4 with a double and four RBI. She smacked a bases-loaded double to center field in the top of the sixth that scored No. 9 hitter Paige Roush, Higginbotham and Parkins, making the score 8-0.
Buffalo coach Darrell Moore said Burdette appeared to have maintained the effectiveness she showed in her last start, which resulted in a 12-0 win over Class A No. 3 Sherman that lasted just three innings on April 7. Entering Thursday evening’s Day 1 nightcap against No. 9 Man, the second-ranked Bison had not given up a run since a 5-4 loss to Class AAA Point Pleasant on April 5.
“She’s looked strong the last two outings she’s had. Her screwball has been working great for her and so has her change-up,” Moore said. “That curve-drop was really working on the outside today. She was feeling it today.
“It’s good to see her two games in a row have good games like that,” Moore said.
Nicholas County coach Marie Shaffer said that while Burdette threw well, the Grizzlies made it easier on the pitcher than they should have.
“We’re usually not like that,” Shaffer said of the high number of called third strikes.
“I tell them I’d rather they swing and miss at something bad then stand there and look at a third strike,” Shaffer said. “We were looking at her good pitches and going after her balls. I know the girls are tired after making that road trip last night, but that’s no excuse.”
The tournament continues today with Class AAA teams taking their place on four fields at Buffalo High School. The event will conclude with elimination rounds beginning Saturday morning.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.