PREP SOFTBALL: Buffalo makes push for four-peat
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Buffalo High School softball program is trying to stake claim as a dynasty.
The Bison are the three-time defending state champion in Class A and are hoping to join a class of their own if they can win a fourth title in a few weeks at the State Tournament.
Buffalo (22-7) took the first step in earning a 8-0 victory over Charleston Catholic on Wednesday in Class A Region 4, Section 4 action at the University of Charleston softball field. The two teams play again on Thursday, and with a victory, the Bison will advance to the regional semifinal next week.
Since the first year of high school championships in softball in the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission began in 1981, only four programs have won at least three consecutive titles.
With Buffalo’s latest run, the Bison have matched Shady Spring, who won three championships in Class AAA in 1992 and 1993 and Class AA in 1994, along with Sissonville from 1995-1997 in AA. Wheeling Central leads the way with seven consecutive state titles in Class A from 1995-2001.
Buffalo coach Darrell Moore said he has a special senior class of six players (Chelsey Parkins, Katie Higginbotham, Katie Allen, Noell Dingess, Kayla Reynolds and Paige Roush) who are closing in on extending a school record.
“This season class has 122 victories for an average of over 30 victories a season,” Moore said. “That is pretty special. We love these seniors to death. They have a lot of victories and three state championships. They really want to get No. 4.”
Moore knows Buffalo, ranked second in the final regular season Daily Mail softball poll, has a long way to go to earn a historic crown, but it’s a topic the longtime Bison coach isn’t afraid of discussing.
“I’m really not superstitious,” Moore said. “If I need to talk to them about it if they are dragging their feet, I will use it as a motivational factor. It would be very special for this group. For as hard as they have worked, I would love to see them accomplish this feat. It’s a goal they set at the beginning of the season. They are excited, know what it takes and are shooting for No. 4.”
The possibility is on minds of the players.
“It would mean the world to me,” said Parkins, who will continue her career collegiately at West Virginia State. “I think this year means the most to me because it is my last year and the last time I will be playing with these girls. I want to go out with a bang, winning.”
“It would be completely amazing and a dream come true,” said Higginbotham, who will play in college at West Liberty. “I think we have never wanted anything more in our life. All that hard work leads to this moment. We want to win a fourth state title. It’s a big deal.”
Moore knows the task will be tougher this postseason.
“We know it is going to be a challenge all the way through,” Moore said. “Everybody is after us. We have a target on our back, and we have all year long.”
Buffalo struggled out of the gate with just a 1-5 record, including four straight losses.
With the Bison reeling, Moore and the Bison players were left in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position, which didn’t sit well with the team.
“We had a reality check,” Higginbotham said. “We sat down and said this isn’t going to work the rest of the season. We have to step up or we aren’t going to be where we want to be at the end of this.”
“We don’t do that very often,” said Moore of the losing streak. “We laid some eggs and I told the girls they either suck it up and play this game the way it is supposed to be played or you can finish this season the same way you have been, with the losing. We had to refocus.”
Refocus Buffalo did, winning 20 games in a row. Along the way, the Bison knocked off Class AA No. 4 Sissonville three times, Class AAA No. 10 Point Pleasant once and No. 4 Sherman twice, as well as No. 7 Charleston Catholic and No. 10 Man in Class A.
“A fire was lit under them,” Moore said. “They took off and we have had about 15 shutouts in that stretch. The kids have been playing really well and we have played some good teams. I was nervous thinking I had overscheduled. To have 20 wins against that competition, I’m tickled to death.”
“I think we just had too much pressure on us from the past couple years,” Parkins said. “We just needed to stay clear of all that and just play our game. We got it rolling.”