Buffalo rolls to finals
VIENNA - Buffalo took an easier path to the Class A state championship game this year.
Freshman starter Ali Burdette and sophomore reliever Chelsey Parkins combined to allow just three hits and strike out 16 and the Bisons belted 16 hits in a 7-2 victory over Moorefield in the second game of Wednesday's state tournament session.
In Buffalo's opener, Parkins fired a two-hit shutout and the Bison banged out 10 hits in claiming an 11-0 five-inning mercy-rule win over Fayetteville. A pro-Buffalo crowd of about 300 ringed Field 2 at Jackson Park for both contests.
"I said before if we hit the ball we'll be all right,'' said Buffalo coach Darrell Moore, who guided the Bison to state titles in 2002 and 2004 in addition to last year.
Buffalo (31-7), the defending state champion, advances to the title game at 3 p.m. today. The Bison only needs one win to claim the school's first back-to-back championships while its foe has to win twice in the double-elimination format.
Last year Buffalo lost on the first day, then won three games on the final day to claim the title, including two wins over Wheeling Central in the championship round.
Moorefield (33-5), which finished second in the final state coaches poll, drops into the losers bracket and will take on No. 4 St. Marys (27-5) at 10:30 a.m. today in an elimination game, with the winner squaring off with Buffalo in the title game. The Yellow Jackets won their first game, a 9-4 decision over St. Marys, while the Blue Devils downed Fayetteville 11-3 in Wednesday's elimination game.
Six of Buffalo's starters had multiple hits in the victory over Moorefield and it could have been worse as the Bison left 13 on base.
"Once we get going there's no stopping us,'' said Buffalo sophomore left fielder Katie Higginbotham, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs from the leadoff position in the batting order.
"We're on fire. When we're on, we're on. There's no stopping us. I just think we play better under pressure and we know everybody's out to get us. We're ready to win this thing.''
Buffalo broke open a scoreless game in the top of the third, scoring six runs and sending 10 batters to the plate. Higginbotham's two-out, two-run single gave the Bison a 5-0 lead to highlight the uprising.
Burdette started her first state tournament game, yielding two earned runs on three hits with 10 strikeouts and six walks in 42/3 innings. She surrendered a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth then walked two and gave up a single before getting lifted for the more experienced Parkins, who earned the save after fanning six of the seven batters she faced. Parkins whiffed the last three batters to end the game on a rousing note.
"We have to come back more ready because they're really wanting us now,'' Higginbotham said. "We just have to come and play like we did today.''
Buffalo jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against Fayetteville (10-21), scoring both runs in the bottom of the first without a hit and taking advantage of a walk and error.
The Bison added two more in the bottom of the second on an error and passed ball and tacked on one in the third on Leslie Harris' two-out run-scoring triple.
Buffalo plated six runs on six hits and sent 12 batters to the plate in the fourth to put the game on ice. Bison senior catcher Cunningham's one-out two-run double highlighted the uprising.
"We started strong,'' said Cunningham. "We were feeling really good and were ready to go. We were crushing the ball. We're really pumped just to be at states. We're really determined to get all the way and not lose.''
Parkins worked out of a couple of jams to keep the Pirates scoreless. She allowed a two-out double to Morgan Wheeler in the top of the first. After Wheeler moved to third base on a passed ball, Parkins regrouped and retired the Pirates' Jessica Brown on a groundout to end the threat.
Fayetteville loaded the bases in the fourth with one out and trailing 5-0, but Cunningham picked off Wheeler at third for the second out and Parkins induced the Pirates' Kelsey Norris to pop out in the infield.
Buffalo tacked on six runs in the bottom of the fourth, then Parkins fanned all three batters for a 1-2-3 fifth to lock up the victory.
Parkins whiffed seven and walked one with only two balls leaving the infield in the 73-pitch effort. She also went 2-for-2, scored three runs and drove in a run.
Cunningham doubled and drove in three runs for Buffalo. The Bison's Katie Allen, who hits eighth, pounded out two hits and No. 9 hitter Olivia Dunn doubled, walked twice and scored twice.
Wheeler, appearing in her fourth straight state tournament for Fayetteville, lasted only 31/3 innings before yielding six earned runs on nine hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Brown was the only other Pirates player to get a hit.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.