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Putnam proud

VIENNA, W.Va. - Putnam County made quite a statement at this week's 33rd state high school softball tournament.

Hurricane claimed the Class AAA title, its first since the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission sanctioned the sport in 1981. Buffalo extended its dynasty in Class A to three straight crowns.

And the two schools, which come from a county with only four high schools, don't show any signs of slowing down.

Hurricane (33-6) had never even advanced to the regionals until this season and also won 30 games for the first time. The Redskins only lose two players from the starting lineup although those are key ones in Linzie Reynolds (catcher) and Nicole Pierson (center field).

Hurricane returns its top two pitchers in sophomores Courtney Rogers and Emily Davis, who rotate at third base when not in the circle. Freshman Maddie Hebb (first base), sophomores Madi Casto (second base) and Cassi Sargent (shortstop), junior Addie Fullen (left field) and freshman Amber Null (right field) will be back for another run.

 "Just a great group, all 18 of them,'' said fifth-year Hurricane coach Josh Caldwell. "We're just solid throughout. They've really worked hard together to get here.

"Hopefully [the state championship] energizes future generations. We should be strong. We return a lot of our offense. We've got some young kids that hopefully will be ready to step up.''

The Redskins received contributions from nearly everyone during their undefeated three-game run through the tourney. Null drove in the deciding run in the bottom of the seventh for a 2-1 win over Wheeling Park in Wednesday's opener, the school's first win at states.

Null knocked in three runs while Fullen and Reynolds rapped out three hits apiece in Hurricane's 11-4 pounding of Jefferson on Wednesday night. Rogers fired a five-hit shutout and drove in two runs, as did Sargent, in the 5-0 title-clinching win over Park on Thursday.

"I think we'll do great again next year,'' Rogers said confidently.

Park, which upset No. 1 and defending state champion John Marshall in the Region 1 final, and Ripley, which made its first appearance at states since winning it all in 2009, both sported young teams and lose only two to graduation.

Buffalo's fifth crown overall was probably its most impressive as it won all three games by 1-0 scores. Sophomore Ali Burdette tossed a three-hit shutout with seven strikeouts in Wednesday's opening win over Wheeling Central, which was the last Class A team to beat the Bison with an 11-9 decision on March 30.

Bison junior Chelsey Parkins fired a two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts against Moorefield later Wednesday, and Burdette came back in Thursday's championship round facing a determined Moorefield squad with a nine-hitter and stranded 10 runners.

"Three runs to win a state championship? Has it ever happened before? I don't think so,'' said Buffalo coach Darrell Moore, who didn't have a senior in the starting lineup. "These [state tournament] teams will be back. We'll play a little tougher schedule next year.''

If there was one area to nitpick about the Bison's performance, it was the fact that Buffalo only managed 13 hits in the three games.

"We've got a couple of kids coming in [and] the JV program is going to be stronger,'' he said. "I think we'll be hitting the ball a little better next year. The middle part of our order is just so young. They just don't know what it's all about yet. Our top of the order was carrying us.''

Parkins said three titles in a row elevate Buffalo's program to new heights that even the highly successful Bison have never experienced.

"It means a lot for the program,'' she said. "It's starting to become a huge program. More kids are going to want to come to Buffalo. The whole community will rise up.''

Moorefield, which finished state runner-up the second year in a row, will graduate six seniors while Central, which has won the most championships of any team in any class with nine, loses four seniors.

Wayne, which won its second AA title in a row Thursday, is primed for a three-peat. The Pioneers graduate Jessica Watts (shortstop) and Tasha Maynard (first base), but every other position player is back, including all-tournament pick Jessie Rowe (pitcher).

Ritchie County, which finished the regular season No. 1 in AA, had a frustrating tourney, getting bounced by James Monroe in Thursday's elimination round 2-1 in eight innings. The Rebels, though, bring back their top two players.

James Monroe, which was at states for the first time in 16 years, made a name for itself by marching to the title game before falling to Wayne 5-1. The Mavericks were crushed 14-1 by the Pioneers in their last game Wednesday night, but upset Ritchie on Thursday morning to move on. James Monroe loses pitcher Mikayla Wickline, who had 39 strikeouts in three games with a high of 17.

Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.

 


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