Prep softball: Buffalo likes its options and its chances
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - There's something about Buffalo's softball team and the number 3.
Buffalo (31-4) enters the Class A State Tournament Wednesday with a pair of triple-threat pitchers and hopes of taking home a third consecutive state championship.
Junior Chelsey Parkins enters the State Tournament with a 14-1 record and 151 strikeouts, while sophomore Ali Burdette follows with almost identical stats, including a 14-2 record and 147 strikeouts.
Coach Darrell Moore plans to use his pitching advantage to take home the title, which would be the fifth for the program.
"We use both of these girls equally. We don't use one as an anchor; we just rotate them because they have equal ability," Moore said.
With the team leaders being no strangers to the State Tournament, Moore believes Parkins and Burdette give the Bison an upper hand both defensively and offensively over the rest of the field. Buffalo opens the double-elimination tournament by facing Wheeling Central (21-8) at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday. Region 2 champion Moorefield - last year's runner-up - will face Region 3 champ Man approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Buffalo-Central game.
The Bison and Maroon Knights have faced each other once this season, when Buffalo went to Wheeling for a two-day road trip in late March. Central claimed an 11-9 win, but Moore said his team's experience in late-season play should prove beneficial.
"We have been in the state tournament seven times in the last 10 years," Moore said. "These girls at this point play cool under pressure and looking at the numbers they have produced statistically, they will be critical in all points of these upcoming games."
Parkins and Burdette have had phenomenal seasons in and out of the circle. They have taken over the list of stat leaders in the Kanawha Valley.
Parkins leads the area with a .553 batting average, and Burdette is right behind her in the second spot. She is currently hitting .500, as is Hurricane sophomore Courtney Rogers.
Parkins has six triples, good enough for second in the area behind St. Albans' Mariah Caudill. Burdette is third, with five.
The two find their names scattered throughout the area leaders, including the lists for home runs (Burdette has six), RBI (Parkins has 50, Burdette 43) and doubles (Parkins 17, Burdette 14).
Parkins also makes her way around the bases with a commanding presence heading into Wednesday. Her 24 stolen bases is third in the area. Junior teammate Katie Higginbotham leads the area in steals with 27.
Higginbotham also makes a powerful contribution as leadoff hitter, making way for Parkins and Burdette.
"Katie has made a big difference for us this year. While she has one of the best on base percentages, Chelsey and Ali have the 'big' bats and move her around," Moore said.
Moore said he has high expectations for Parkins and Burdette this week. Parkins leads the area with a 0.88 ERA, while Burdette is not far behind, at 0.93. The effectiveness of both pitchers could come into play Thursday, should Buffalo avoid what would be an unlikely elimination in Wednesday's opening rounds.
A pitcher can throw just 14 innings in one day. If Buffalo loses a game Wednesday, it would have to play three games Thursday in order to claim the title.
"All we ask of them is to perform as they practice. They have an individual presence on the mound, but at the same time compliment each other so well," he said.
"If these girls lead this team, we can come home as champions."