The biggest challenge to Buffalo extending its Class A state championship streak to five years in a row was replacing a pair of four-year starters who moved on to play in the Mountain East Conference in 2015.
Bison coach Darrell Moore acknowledged it wouldn’t be simple to find new players to fill the voids left by pitcher/shortstop Chelsey Parkins and left fielder Katie Higginbotham who, after winning four titles in as many seasons, stepped into new roles at West Virginia State and West Liberty, respectively.
So while senior pitcher Ali Burdette was most certainly the key cog in Buffalo’s self-proclaimed “Drive for Five” that ended with a 7-2 win over Wheeling Central in the Class A title game late last month in Vienna, fellow seniors Courtney Allen and Olivia Dunn were more valuable, perhaps, than public perception reflected.
In the end, their work was recognized not just with another championship ring, but also with their being named — along with Burdette and Bison junior catcher Chase Christy — to the Class A all-state team selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“Courtney came into the year with an injury but worked through it. When they were asked to change positions to help us find a shortstop and a center fielder, they both took on the challenge,” Moore said. “Olivia especially, who had been a two-year starter in center field. She took on the role of playing shortstop, and it helped us be able to focus on finding the right people to fill other positions.”
Allen, who hit .425 with three triples, nine doubles and 39 RBIs after moving to center field for her senior year, also backed up Burdette, the first-team captain, as Buffalo’s No. 2 pitcher. Dunn, the school’s all-time leading scorer in girls basketball, finished the season with a .385 batting average and stole 11 bases.
“When you lose a couple four-year starters, you expect the new kids to be good, but they did great,” Moore said.
Buffalo finished the season with a 32-6 record, and its fifth consecutive state title was the school’s seventh since 2002, all under Moore’s direction.
At the center of that run, of course, was Burdette. The Marshall University signee finished the season with a 25-1 record, an 0.34 ERA and 252 strikeouts. She also hit .672 with 10 home runs, 16 doubles, three triples and 50 RBIs. To cap off her stat line, Burdette also stole 17 bases.
“She took the team on her shoulders and took them to the championship. That’s exactly what she did,” Moore said.
A three-year starter, Christy emerged as the Bison’s No. 2 hitter as a junior behind Burdette. She hit .495 with three homers and 39 RBIs. While Moore regularly tinkers with his defensive alignment through the course of each season and 2015 saw Christy spell Dunn at times at shortstop after freshman left fielder Cali Smith was lost for the season with a torn ACL, the veteran coach said she will likely stay behind the plate in 2016.
Wheeling Central landed three of its players on the first team. Maroon Knights freshman Riley Bennington (15-5, 0.70 ERA, 120 strikeouts) was named as a pitcher while her older sister, senior Sydney Bennington (.530, 3 HR, 27 RBIs), made the list as an infielder. Junior catcher Allie Cook (.520, 22 RBIs) was listed as well.
No other team had more than one player make the first-team list.
The remaining pitchers on the team included Cameron senior Linda Hall (13-3, 0.83, 124 Ks) and Madonna freshman Kati Gasvoda. Joining Dunn and Sydney Bennington in the infield were Bishop Donahue senior Tess Fallova (.468, 2 HR, 18 RBIs), Williamstown senior Emrie Gray (.447, 3 HR, 28 RBIs) and South Harrison sophomore Tori Stout.
The outfield, along with Allen, included Wirt County senior Stone Cheuvront (.453, 28 RBIs) and Wahama junior Rachel Roque (.402).
Four utility players rounded out the first-team selections, and those spots were filled by Clay-Battelle freshman Abbey Ammons (.482, 5 HR, 25 RBIs and 59 K as a pitcher), Notre Dame sophomore Ashley Mordan, Fayetteville senior Kaitlyn Sisler and Richwood sophomore Kora Younts, who went 14-0 as a pitcher for the Lumberjacks with a 1.29 ERA while also hitting .548 with two homers and scored 30 runs.
Wirt County freshman catcher Skylar Bogan was named the captain of the second team. Buffalo added another selection there, freshman infielder Brooke Persinger, and state tournament qualifiers Man and Pendleton County were represented on the second list by Hillbillies sophomore catcher Sydney Keffer and Wildcats freshman pitcher Taylor Townsend.
Class A All-State team
P — Ali Burdette, Buffalo, Sr. (Captain)
P — Linda Hall, Cameron, Sr.
P — Riley Bennington, Wheeling Central, Fr.
P — Kati Gasvoda, Madonna, Fr.
IF — Sydney Bennington, Wheeling Central, Sr.
IF — Emrie Gray, Williamstown, Sr.
IF — Tori Stout, South Harrison, So.
IF — Olivia Dunn, Buffalo, Sr.
IF — Tess Fallova, Bishop Donahue, Sr.
OF — Courtney Allen, Buffalo, Sr.
OF — Stone Cheuvront, Wirt County, Sr.
OF — Rachel Roque, Wahama, Jr.
UTIL — Kora Younts, Richwood, So.
UTIL — Abbey Ammons, Clay-Battelle, Fr.
UTIL — Kaitlyn Sisler, Fayetteville, Sr.
UTIL — Ashley Mordan, Notre Dame, So.
C — Chase Christy, Buffalo, Jr.
C — Allie Cook, Wheeling Central, Jr.
P — Sydney Lipscomb, South Harrison, So.
P — Cierra King, Williamstown, Sr.
P — Taylor Townsend, Pendleton County, Fr.
P — Brooke Riggleman, Moorefield, Sr.
IF — Meredith Lauderdale, Greenbrier West, So.
IF — Abbey Durig, Magnolia, Sr.
IF — Jordan Lewis, Sherman, Sr.
IF — Dakota Reed, Doddridge County, Sr.
IF — Brooke Persinger, Buffalo, Fr.
OF — Demi Smallwood, Richwood, Sr.
OF — Caitlyn Berardi, Cameron, Sr.
OF — Ashton Chancellor, Williamstown, Sr.
UTIL — Chelsea Gale, Huntington St. Joe, Jr.
UTIL — Taylor Cosper, Paden City, Jr.
UTIL — Bailey Wood, Cameron, Sr.
UTIL — Olivia Ooten, Tug Valley, Sr.
C — Skylar Bogan, Wirt County, Fr. (Captain)
C — Sydney Keffer, Man, So.
Special Honorable Mention
Talia Corbett, Charleston Catholic; Sommer South, Bishop Donahue; Mady Hardbarger, Wirt County; Aubrey Neff, Paden City; Ashton Chancellor, Williamstown; Hayley Wanstreet, Gilmer County; Mikala Keplinger, Doddridge County; Jersey Thompson, Valley-Fayette; Lora McDonald, South Harrison; Katie Shaffer, Notre Dame; Megan Chambers, Richwood; Savannah Mullins, Meadow Bridge; Madison Syner, Midland Trail; Kailey Cooper, Valley-Fayette.
Paige England, Buffalo; Elise Peden, Charleston Catholic; Kendra Becker, St. Marys; Courtney Dotson, Williamstown; Kayla Randolph, Wirt County; Jordan Fox, St. Marys; Maddie Pride, Clay-Battelle; Hanna Burnside, South Harrison; Cheyenne Currey, Doddridge County; Marion Emerson, Notre Dame; Molly Wheeler, South Harrison; Alexa Roles, Fayetteville; Shaedyn Housh, Greater Beckley Christian; Brittany Bevins, Greenbrier West; Morgan Amick, Richwood; Shaely Redden, Meadow Bridge; Makenna Nickell, Midland Trail; Kiki Peterson, Greater Beckley Christian; Taylor Thompson, Madonna.