Hurricane, Buffalo advance at softball tourney
VIENNA - Hurricane was wondering what all the fuss was about Wednesday while Buffalo kept marching to its own drummer.
The Redskins and Bison each won both of their games in Class AAA and Class A, respectively, and advanced to today's championship round undefeated. Each would have to lose twice in order to not win their respective titles, a tall order considering how well both are playing.
Hurricane (32-6), which finished third in the state sportswriters' poll, will take on the Jefferson-Wheeling Park winner at 2 p.m. today on Jackson Park's Field 3 in the AAA championship round. Top-ranked Buffalo (33-4), the two-time defending state champion, will face the Wheeling Central-Moorefield winner at 2:15 p.m. in the Class A title matchup on Field 1. (For pairings and results, see Page 2B).
Hurricane bashed its way to an 11-4 victory over Jefferson behind freshman No. 9 hitter Amber Null's 2-for-3 effort with a double and three RBIs to finish off quite a day. In the opener Wednesday morning, Null singled in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh as the Redskins won their first tournament game in school history, a 2-1 decision over Wheeling Park.
"It's fantastic,'' said Hurricane senior Linzie Reynolds, who singled three times against Jefferson after going hitless versus Wheeling Park. "I'm so proud of my team. We've been doing it all year. [We're] just focused and ready to win and ready to go.''
Buffalo has relied on its pitching duo of junior Chelsey Parkins and sophomore Ali Burdette all season and the two didn't disappoint in their closes games to date. Parkins fired a two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts, including whiffing the last four batters, in a 1-0 decision over Moorefield, last year's state runner-up, in the evening session.
That matched Burdette's earlier effort, as she tossed a three-hit shutout with seven punchouts in a 1-0 win over Wheeling Central.
"We never give up,'' said Parkins. "We had chances where we could have scored a lot more.''
"We've been working on our pitches and hitting our spots,'' added Burdette. "It was kind of nerve wracking where we couldn't hit the ball.''
Hurricane cruised to a 7-0 lead through the first three innings against unranked Jefferson, plating five in the third on Null's two-run double, junior Addie Fullen's run-scoring double and freshman Maddie Hebb's RBI single. Things got a little tight in the fourth, as Jefferson pulled within 7-4 and was looking for more with the bases loaded and two outs, but Redskins relief pitcher Emily Davis forced a groundout to end the threat.
The Redskins added a run on senior Nicole Pierson's single in the fifth for an 8-4 advantage, and they plated two more runs on two errors in the sixth for a 10-4 edge. Fullen finished 3 for 4, while Rogers pounded out a pair of doubles as Hurricane smashed 16 hits.
Hurricane had to grind out the first victory against Park after allowing the Patriots to knot the game 1-1 in the top of the seventh on an error. Park knocked out No. 1 and defending state champion John Marshall in the regional final.
The Redskins responded with Fullen's leadoff single then Davis coaxed a walk to put runners at first and second in the bottom of the frame. Hebb struck out, but Null came through on an 0-2 count for her only hit of the game. Rogers allowed one earned run on one hit with four punchouts and no walks.
"You can't ask for more than 2-0,'' said Hurricane coach Josh Caldwell. "I thought we were a little tentative in the first game and we came back and hit the ball hard [in the second game]. I think that takes the pressure off when you jump out to a three- or four-run lead. They have one goal and that's to win it.''
Hurricane has already run a gauntlet of ranked teams leading up to states, dispatching No. 4 Lincoln County, No. 2 Cabell Midland and No. 8 St. Albans. That trio also has won state titles.
"With the teams we've gotten through I don't think we're overmatched by anybody,'' Caldwell said.
Buffalo scored what proved to be the winning run against Moorefield in the fourth on Katie Allen's bases-loaded walk. The first two hitters flied out, but Chase Christy and Noell Dingess worked walks while Olivia Dunn singled to set up Allen. That was all the Bison, who have won 21 in a row, needed with Parkins dealing.
"They're going to give you everything they've got and that's a lot,'' said Buffalo coach Darrell Moore of Burdette and Parkins.
The Bison earned a measure of revenge in the opener versus the Maroon Knights, who were the last Class A team to beat them with an 11-9 decision on March 30 in Wheeling.
Buffalo's Katie Higginbotham singled in the winning run with one out in the bottom of the sixth. After Allen flied out, Paige England reached on an error then moved to second on a wild pitch. Taylor Briscoe followed with a single to set up Higginbotham's hit. Burdette surrendered only three singles with two walks.
Central's Madison Basinger whiffed eight and walked none in six innings.
The heavy-hitting Bison only had eight hits in two games, but found a way each time.
"We don't care how we get to the championship,'' said Moore. "A lot of good strokes, but they're making the catches. I'm proud of these girls.
"They've had pressure on them all year long [as the] No. 1 team in the state. They could have folded under pressure, but they came through. They're calm as cucumbers. They're ready to go.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.