Bison back for a run at 3
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Several teams in the Kanawha Valley enjoyed postseason success last year, but none more than Buffalo.
The Bison (32-7) claimed its second straight Class A state title, going back-to-back for the first time in school history. Buffalo won titles in 2002 and 2004, but failed to defend them.
"I think it's their attitude,'' said Buffalo coach Darrell Moore, who's in his 20th season. "It's a happy-go-lucky bunch. They're very serious about their game, but they joke around with each other, have a ball. They're all friends and they just love each other to death. They just enjoy the game together.''
Buffalo is loaded again with three all-state selections highlighting six returning starters. Junior pitcher-shortstop Chelsey Parkins, junior left fielder Katie Higginbotham and sophomore pitcher-shortstop Ali Burdette were all Class A all-state first-team selections.
Burdette owned a 9-2 pitching record with a 1.33 earned run average while hitting .541. Parkins turned in a 12-2 mark with 1.75 ERA in the circle while batting .460. Higginbotham batted .458.
Also returning to starting positions are juniors Katie Allen (third base) and Noell Dingess (second base) and sophomore Olivia Dunn, a center fielder who was missed most of last year with ankle and hand injuries.
Junior Paige England, who played mostly junior varsity last year, will get the nod at first base while senior Kelsey Gatens and sophomore Taylor Brisco will rotate in right field and freshman Chase Christy earned the primary catching duties.
Sophomore Courtney Allen, the No. 3 hurler and an outfielder, will be lost for most of the year to a knee injury sustained during basketball season but could return for the last couple of weeks of the regular season. Dingess, though, is capable of stepping into the circle if needed.
"I'm pleased with them,'' Moore said. "They're eager. The kids are practicing really, really hard and they're ready to play. I've never seen the kids under a lot of pressure. They're always relaxed and focused. I look for the same this year.''
Here's a capsule look at some other teams around the Kanawha Valley (last year's record in parentheses where available):
The Huskies are counting on another stellar season from sophomore pitcher Allison Rager, who was an all-state first-team selection as a freshman after sporting a 20-3 record with a 1.27 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 149 innings. She also hit a team-high .427 with 12 doubles and 18 RBIs.
Senior catcher Damia Mogielski and senior first baseman Amber Oaks return to starting positions along with juniors McKenzie Edmonds (second base), Ashleigh Tignor (right field) and Mikayla Craze, who was a top substitute last year, and sophomore Kati Angle (left field). Zoey Carte and Caroline Thornburg will have expanded roles.
Senior battery mates Ali Haynes (pitcher) and Mariah Caudill (catcher) along with juniors Madi Marshall (shortstop), Haili McCown (first base), Whitney Jones (left fielder) and Alyssa Bonham (third base) will set the tone. Haynes and Marshall were AAA all-state second-team picks.
Haynes finished with a 22-5 record and a 1.18 ERA to go along with 115 strikeouts in 119 innings. She also batted .368 with three home runs and a team-leading 35 RBIs. Caudill hit .342 with four homers and 30 RBIs and Marshall, who will move from third base to shortstop, hit .513 with nine doubles and 27 RBIs.
Other starters include sophomores Amber Kemplin (right field) and Brianna Pauley (center field) while freshman Maddie Chandler (second base) earned a spot right out of the chute. Freshmen Katie Holstein (pitcher-utility) and Kali Wilkinson (outfield), junior Sydney Young (outfield) and sophomore Chelsie Guthrie (utility) are expected to contribute.
The Redskins boast a 1-2 pitching punch in sophomores Emily Davis (9-1) and Courtney Rogers (10-2). Rogers, who earned AAA all-state second-team honors, also added six home runs, 12 doubles and 36 RBIs.
Sophomore second baseman Madison Casto (.521, 23 RBIs, 21 stolen bases), also a AAA all-state second-team pick, and sophomore shortstop Cassi Sargent (.414, 11 doubles, 25 RBIs) are back after impressive freshman campaigns.
Senior center fielder Nicole Pierson (.448, six doubles, 23 RBIs), junior left fielder Addie Fullen (.393, four home runs, 25 RBIs), a AAA all-state second-team selection, and senior catcher Linzie Reynolds (.431, 18 RBIs) return to the starting lineup. Senior Haley Byrd will see time at first and third base.
Senior pitcher-first baseman Bekah Baldwin, a Class AA all-state first-team pick, will be the catalyst after hitting .506 last season with 10 home runs, 15 doubles, and 36 RBIs while fanning 94 batters in 93 innings. Sissonville also welcomes back outfielder Emily Shaffer, junior outfielder Jamie Holmes and sophomores Andrea Harmon, Kayla Legg and Katelyn Linville.
The AAA all-state first-team selection posted a Kanawha Valley-best 0.78 ERA with 256 strikeouts as a junior last season. Burdette threw one perfect game, four no-hitters and seven shutouts while opponents hit just .097 against her. For good measure, the Elon recruit led the team with a .397 batting average.
Senior outfielders Meredith Cain and Kayli Hudson and junior catcher Mckenzie Catlett will add some pop to the lineup along with junior left fielder Kaylee Stanley, senior designated hitter Aaliyan Phillips and sophomore first baseman Jazmine Martin.
The Generals' top two returning hitters are sophomores Kenna Markham, a first baseman-center fielder who hit .417, and Katie Legg (.397). Junior shortstop-outfielder Ally Funk (.356) and senior pitcher Taylor Raines (0.79 ERA) also return.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.