CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Putnam County is becoming a hotbed of high school softball.
Both of this year's participants from the Kanawha Valley in the state tournament - Buffalo and Hurricane - hail from the county with just four high schools.
The Bison, the two-time defending state champions in Class A, will take on Wheeling Central at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday in the opening round at Jackson Park in Vienna. The Redskins, who will be making their first appearance in school history, will face Wheeling Park at 9:30 a.m. in AAA. (See Page 2B for state tournament pairings.)
"It's a great asset to our community,'' said Buffalo coach Darrell Moore of the county's success. "We'll have one heck of a crowd up there for that morning session. There won't be that many school buses left. It's going to be a special time for Putnam County.''
Buffalo has been a perennial contender at states, having also won it all in 2002 and 2004. The Bison (31-4), though, are having a rare season even by their standards - advancing to states and winning 30 games for the third year in a row is a first in the program's history. Buffalo also finished No. 1 in the final state sportswriters' poll.
"It's special for our program,'' Moore said. "Our program just keeps growing and growing each year.''
Hurricane (30-6), which set a school record for wins the past two seasons, had never played in a regional before until this year. The Redskins were third in the final poll, their highest ranking to end a season.
"It's huge for the program,'' said Hurricane fifth-year coach Josh Caldwell, who also welcomed his first child this spring. "Every year we continue to build on success.
"For us to finally break through, it's huge to know you can do it and have the confidence you can do it. We eliminated three of the top eight teams in the state. They've worked hard for it. It's definitely an honor to be the one to represent the region. We have to make sure we do a good job representing the region.''
The Redskins' road to states hasn't been an easy one as they disposed of No. 4 Lincoln County, No. 2 Cabell Midland and No. 8 St. Albans. Before last year, the seven previous state champions came from Region 4.
Hurricane needed all three games of the double-elimination format to get past perennial nemesis Lincoln County in the sectional tournament. The Redskins fell behind Midland 3-0 in the top of the first in the regional semifinals before rallying for the lead then sweating out a 6-5 win as the Knights left two runners on in the top of the seventh. Hurricane shut out SA 2-0, winning for the first time this year when scoring two runs or less.