Buffalo seems to be hitting its stride, carrying a 19-game winning streak into this week. After falling at Wheeling Central 11-9 on March 30, the Bison haven't lost to a Class A team since. Buffalo allowed its first runs of the postseason in a 13-4 win at Wahama in the regional semis, then shut out No. 8 Doddridge County 2-0 in the region final.
Moore said the sport has come a long way in Putnam in his 20 years as coach. Poca advanced to its first regional in school history last season. And this year, Winfield won 12 games under first-year coach Kelly Montgomery, including a victory over state-tournament qualifier Ripley.
"I think Putnam County ball is on the rise,'' Moore said. "We've got some good kids coming up in our middle school and Hurricane has a real nice Little League program.
"They're seeing us playing in the state tournament, and more and more young kids are getting involved at a young age. When we first started, the pitching speed was probably 35 mph. For [Buffalo] to have two pitchers throwing close to 60 now? Since that time it's really come a long way.''
And the county's players are supportive of each other.
"We went over and watched them play the other night,'' said Moore of Hurricane's regional final. "We probably had more than half of our team cheering them on. They went out on the field and celebrated [with Hurricane]. They're all friends.''
Besides Hurricane, the state tournament will have plenty of upstarts.
No. 6 Wheeling Park knocked off No. 1 and defending AAA state champion John Marshall in the Region 1 final. No. 10 Ripley, which sports only one senior in the starting lineup, is making an appearance in AAA after a lengthy absence while Jefferson, which failed to crack the final rankings, made it through. In AA, No. 5 James Monroe returns after 16 years and No. 7 Petersburg will be making the trip for the first time in school history.
And like Buffalo, there are several state tournament veterans. One of the best matchups will be No. 1 Ritchie County, which won it all in 2011 in AA, playing No. 3 and defending state champion Wayne out of the gate Wednesday. No. 3 Moorefield returns in Class A as the state runner-up, while No. 9 Man is back after moving out of Buffalo's region because of reclassification.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.