A team winning four consecutive state championships is a rare feat.
In fact, there have been just 43 instances in the history of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission in which a team has won four straight titles. That total is decreased significantly, to 16 times, when the sport’s champion is determined by a collective production instead of an aggregate score of individuals.
To lend further context to the rarity of what the Buffalo High School softball team accomplished by winning its fourth consecutive Class A state championship last month, the SSAC has awarded 891 team championships in such team sports since its inception. Only 2.9 percent of the time has a champion been the winner of its fourth title in a row or more.
It is somewhat fitting, then, that the West Virginia Sports Writers Association honored not just one, but two Buffalo standouts with captaincy of the Class A all-state team. Senior Chelsey Parkins and junior Ali Burdette were selected as the first co-captains of an all-state softball team since the organization began selecting the teams in 2005.
“I think it’s a great move, a great selection,” Buffalo coach Darrell Moore said when informed of the decision.
“Their stats throughout the year were almost identical to each other,” Moore said. “It’s almost like having a pair of twins on the team and each one gives you the same production and leadership.”
Both Parkins — who was the all-state captain as a junior 2013 — and Burdette were listed as pitchers on the 18-player all-state roster. Parkins finished the season with a 14-4 record, an earned run average of 1.10 and 128 strikeouts.
Burdette was 13-3 with a 0.61 ERA and 143 strikeouts. Burdette hit .495 with three home runs and 26 RBIs, 10 doubles and two triples and stole 19 bases. Parkins hit .485 with five homers, 35 RBIs, 12 doubles, five triples and 25 steals.
Buffalo began the season by losing five of its first six games, a side effect of Moore’s attempt to increase the difficulty of the team’s schedule in preparation for a postseason run. He said that the luxury of having Parkins and Burdette in the circle enabled him to fine-tune the rest of the Bison lineup.
After the early slump, Buffalo won 20 straight games and 28 of its last 30.
“We weren’t mentally prepared early in the season,” Moore said. “Our hitting wasn’t in order. We’d get people on base and couldn’t get the hits at the right time to do anything with it, so I had to juggle the batting order a few times to get it right.
“The thing is, I never had to worry about my pitchers, and because of that we could focus on fixing the things that needed fixed,” Moore said.
Parkins and Burdette were repeat selections to the team, as was Buffalo senior outfielder Katie Higginbotham.
“Katie’s been a great leader for us, and she’s been in the leadoff spot for four years,” Moore said of the senior, who hit .400 with 17 RBIs, seven doubles and stole 17 bases.
“I’ve said it a lot, but as she goes, we go,” Moore said. “She gets on and gets the ball rolling for the rest of our batting order, and when you get the top of our order rolling, it’s hard to stop it.”
The remainder of the all-state pitching staff includes Wheeling Central senior Madison Basinger (22-2, 1.28 ERA, 157 wstrikeouts), Magnolia senior Mallory Chapman (200 strikeouts and a 0.90 ERA in 140 innings pitched) and Moorefield senior Dani Rogers.
In all, 14 of the 18 players selected for the team were seniors, paving the way for a new host of stars to take center stage in 2015.
Moorefield and Wheeling Central each landed a player on the team along with their ace pitchers. Moorefield senior Beth Cook (.587, 7 HR, 23 RBIs) and Maroon Knights junior Sydney Bennington (.520, 3 HR, 31 RBIs) were named as infielders, and were joined at the position by Wahama senior Bailey Hicks (.552, 7 homers, 32 RBIs), Sherman senior Baylee Harless (.356, 5 homers, nine doubles) and St. Marys senior Alyssa Fetty.
Moorefield and Wheeling Central joined Buffalo as the only teams with multiple selections to the first team. The Yellow Jackets finished as the Class A runner-up for the third year in a row and Central was ranked No. 1 in the state softball poll from wire to wire in the regular season.
Joining Higginbotham in the outfield were Madonna senior Amanda Paul (.361, 22 RBI) and South Harrison junior Hanna Burnside. Valley Fayette senior Kelsey Bird and Wirt County senior Shania Tanner (.447, 21 RBI) were named as catchers.
Three utility players were chosen, including Gilmer County senior Julie Bishop (.442, 10 doubles, 15 RBIs), Doddridge County senior Lacy Perkins (.518 with a 1.79 ERA as a pitcher) and Fayetteville junior Kaitlin Sisler (.490).
Sherman junior pitcher Kylie Wells was chosen as captain of the second team after pitching the Tide to their first state tournament appearance and winning 12 of the team’s games while hitting .306.