Story By Carl Holcomb
Moorefield Examiner –
The inspirational season for Yellow Jackettes sent them flying to the Class A State Tournament, but it wasn’t enough to surpass the dynasty of Buffalo stomping to a fourth consecutive state championship.
Moorefield struggled against Buffalo senior pitcher Chelsey Parkins in the opening round of the state tournament last Wednesday losing 14-3, then it was time to regroup.
The Yellow Jackettes ousted Sherman 6-3 in the loser’s bracket, then edged Magnolia 1-0 on Thursday morning to return to the state championship.
For the third consecutive year, Moorefield lost to Buffalo in the title game and it was a heartbreaking 8-0 shutout.
Moorefield crossed one goal off the list of carrying coach Tammie Ayers to the state tournament.
Ayers was diagnosed with cancer prior to the season and underwent chemotherapy during the year, but her team was a supportive family throughout the entire season wearing pink and encouraging her every step of the way.
“They’ve worked hard. They’ve been my inspiration. They think I’m theirs, but they’re my inspiration,” Moorefield Softball Coach Tammie Ayers noted.
The Class A Final Four: Buffalo (29-7), Moorefield (25-8), Magnolia (18-16), and Sherman (20-15) showcased great talent and sportsmanship.
Sherman was awarded the 2014 Class A State Softball Sportsmanship Award.
Class A State Softball All-Tournament Team members: Buffalo – Chelsey Parkins, Katie Higginbotham, Ali Burdette, Noell Dingess; Moorefield – Danica Rogers, Beth Cook, Bethany Smith; Magnolia – Mallory Chapman, Davianne Croasmun; Sherman – Paige Halstead.
Moorefield utilized ace senior pitcher Danica Rogers in the first three games of the state tournament including the initial contest against Buffalo, so for the championship tilt Coach Ayers turned to junior pitcher Brooke Riggleman.
Buffalo senior pitcher Chelsey Parkins was commanding the strikes again in the state championship game.
Moorefield senior Brooklin Gilbert who had garnered a leadoff single in the first contest against Parkins, struck out this time.
Moorefield power hitting senior Beth Cook smashed a double down the left field line, but was stranded on two strikeouts to Tara George and Riggleman.
Buffalo’s Katie Higginbotham flew out to Ashley Rexrode in center field to start the bottom of the first inning, then Courtney Allen hit a single into center.
Gilbert collected a grounder by Ali Burdette and threw to Kelsey Hines at first base for the out.
After a walk to Parkins, Riggleman got out of the jam with a fielder’s choice out at third base.
Parkins didn’t allow Moorefield to get on base in the second inning with a pop-out by Bethany Smith, then struck out Danica Rogers and Cheyenne Lender.
Buffalo’s Noell Dingess was given a leadoff walk, then Katie Allen hit a sacrifice bunt.
Taylor Briscoe hit a single into left field where Smith collected it and threw to third base for Gilbert to make the tag for the out and Briscoe advanced to second.
Olivia Dunn hit an RBI single into center field to give the Lady bison a 1-0 edge.
Higginbotham followed with an RBI double to the center field fence, then Courtney Allen flew out to Rexrode in center.
The Yellow Jackettes got a leadoff single by Hines in center field.
Rexrode bunted into the air and Parkins jumped toward it along the third base line and caught it, then turned to throw to first base catching Hines off the base for a double play.
Gilbert grounded out to end the side.
Burdette hit a leadoff single, then Parkins hit an RBI single and advanced to second on an error as the ball bounced off the glove of Smith and past her to the fence in left field.
After a groundout, Dingess hit an RBI sacrifice bunt for a 4-0 lead.
Riggleman closed out the inning with a strikeout to Katie Allen.
Cook smacked a leadoff single to right field in the fourth inning, but was stranded on a close groundout by George, a strikeout to Riggleman, and a line drive out by Smith.
Briscoe hit a line drive out to Gilbert, then Dunn singled and raced to second on an error by Smith.
Rogers collected a grounder for an out to Hines.
Courtney Allen notched an RBI on an error, then Burdette singled.
Parkins hit an RBI single just past Cook, then moved to second on the throw to third by Rexrode where Burdette was safe.
Chase Christy gave the Lady Bison an 8-0 lead on a two-run producing RBI single, then George caught the base runner stealing.
“We started the program 21 years ago. We’ve won six state championships and to have four in a row, I never thought it would happen. When these seniors came in and won as freshmen, I knew it was possible,” Buffalo Coach Darrell Moore commented.
“We play tough competition and it shows. Anytime you hit the ball, you make things happen. It doesn’t hurt to have two pitchers on your staff, they don’t give up too many hits. They do a fantastic job for us. We’ll be back. We’re just going to reload what we’ve got. We’re a program, we’re not just a one trip team. We can compete with anybody and we’ve been here a lot. The kids were fantastic and I love working with them. Three years in a row. I hate it for Beth Cook, an outstanding player. I love her to death. It’s just one of those things, we wanted to win and our kids were real dedicated today. They put forth the effort this morning and yesterday they played great. It’s been good and it’s always tough. In all three years it’s always been close, but this year we hit the ball better than we had been. Our kids worked hard for this.”
Rogers hit a single to right field, but tried to turn the play into a double and somehow Briscoe’s throw and tag by Burdette on the slide was on time with the dirt flying.
Lender grounded out on a bunt and the state championship game ended on a strikeout to Hines in the fifth inning.
“I’m just really proud of them. We know Buffalo is always a powerhouse. We just have to hit the pitches that they throw to us, but we struggled doing that today. We had some errors and you shoot yourself in the foot when you have errors. They have very fast pitchers, the strongest we’ve faced. I think part of it is, it’s a head game with us because they beat us last year 1-0 in two different games and I think we just think, okay we need to hit, we need to hit, and we just didn’t hit against them today at all or yesterday,” Coach Ayers said.
“Of course, Beth’s my niece and it makes it very special. I just can’t imagine going to a ball field and not watching her play in Moorefield. Dani, Kelsey, and Brooklin, those girls just actually grew up together. I’ve just always watched them and have been a part of their ball experience. They’re all five great young ladies and I’d like to attribute that to their teamwork and working together through sports, through softball. It was really special, these girls have just uplifted me a lot this Spring. They kept me going. There were days I didn’t feel like going to practice, but didn’t want to let them down, so I’d be there.”
Buffalo secured its sixth Class A state championship and fourth in a row.
The road to the championship contest was a longer one for Moorefield, having to battle through the loser’s bracket.