CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A high school softball team rarely makes its way through the West Virginia state tournament without giving up a run.
Only once has a team managed to navigate the tournament's double-elimination format by scoring only three runs and yet still emerged with a state championship.
In winning its third consecutive Class A state championship, Buffalo accomplished both feats last week in Vienna. A quick glance over the Class A All-State team released today, it might not come as such a shock that the Bison were able to win three straight 1-0 games against the state's best competition.
Buffalo junior Chelsey Parkins was selected as captain of the All-State team by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, and is joined on the 18-player list by teammates Ali Burdette and Katie Higginbotham.
Higginbotham, a junior, was named as an outfielder while Parkins and Burdette - a sophomore who went 2-0 in the State Tournament - claimed two of the five pitchers' spots, a rarity for one school.
Burdette finished the season 16-2 with 162 strikeouts in 112 innings. She had a 0.86 ERA. Parkins was 15-1 with 161 strikeouts in 104 innings, and posted a 0.84 ERA. Parkins led the team in hitting with a .523 average, 17 doubles and 50 RBI. Burdette hit .486 with six home runs, 15 doubles and 44 RBI.
Buffalo won 23 games by shutout and held 32 of 38 opponents to two or fewer runs in compiling a 34-4 record, making the placement of Burdette and Parkins easy to understand, although each played shortstop while not pitching.
"It was very important to keep other teams from scoring this year," Parkins said. "I was mainly focusing on hitting my spots, and I knew I had a defense behind me to back me up."
Parkins said the importance of defense became heightened during the State Tournament. Although she, Burdette and Higginbotham each entered the tournament with batting averages around the .500 mark, run production became a challenge.
"We were definitely not hitting the ball like we had been during the season. We showed it only takes one run to win," she said.
Higginbotham said the ability of Parkins and Burdette to keep runs off the board made the young Bison hitters relax. The team had no senior starters.
"Offensively, it pumps us up," Higginbotham said. "It calms our nerves and me, personally, I feel more confidence in the box. I focus better because I'm not as nervous.
"Our defense in the title game was phenomenal. The whole tournament it was sound. It won those ball games," she said.