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The Buffaloes are the first in school history to make the state semifinals, where they'll face Northumberland.
SAM OWENS | The Roanoke Times
Floyd County’s Holly Britt (right) praises teammate Christene Phillips during last week’s Region C Division 2 final.
SAM OWENS | The Roanoke Times
Left fielder Dani Harris is Floyd County’s only starting senior this season. She leads the team in batting with a .470 average.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
FLOYD - The Floyd County softball team is used to playing games at Veterans Field in Radford.
But it has never played in a game as big as the one it will play there Saturday.
The Buffaloes have reached the state semifinals for the first time in their history. They will face Northumberland in a Group A Division 2 semifinal at 1 p.m.
"We're all pretty much on cloud nine," junior pitcher/first baseman Christene Phillips said Friday.
The Buffaloes (21-3), who are in the state tournament for the first time in eight years, advanced to the final four with a 7-2 win over visiting Gate City in a quarterfinal Tuesday.
"We made school history. It was super exciting," senior left fielder Dani Harris said.
The site of today's game, Veterans Field, is where the Buffaloes play each year when they visit Three Rivers District rival Radford High School.
"Since we've played there before, it's kind of like a home-field advantage," Phillips said.
The Buffaloes, who were coached by Wes Starkey for 17 years until he stepped down after the 2011 season, have usually had successful softball teams. But their seasons usually ended in the regional tournament.
Two years ago, Glenvar defeated Floyd County in the Region C Division 2 semifinals - and that was a talented Floyd team. Six members of that Floyd squad have gone on to play for ODAC teams.
Last year - the Buffaloes' first season under coach Scott Thompson - James River beat Floyd County in the Region C Division 2 semifinals.
But on May 30, Floyd County clinched a state tournament berth for the first time since 2005 when it beat Grayson County 9-2 in the Region C Division 2 semifinals at Grayson County Recreation Park.
On May 31, the Buffaloes claimed a regional title for the first time since 2001. They defeated James River 5-0 in the Region C Division 2 final at the Moyer Sports Complex.
"That was really special," junior pitcher/first baseman Karlee Pendleton said.
Eight starters are back from last year's team. But players said this year's team has better chemistry.
"The bonding last year wasn't as good as this year," Phillips said. "We've come together a lot more and understood that we have to be together if we plan on going far. We just talk more."
"We've had team meetings," Pendleton said. "We've had breakfasts."
The Buffaloes should also be a force next season. Harris is the team's only senior starter.
Floyd County won the Three Rivers District regular season title this year, but its quest for a third straight district tournament championship ended with a 4-2 semifinal loss to Radford.
But the Buffaloes bounced back with a 21-0 thrashing of Patrick Henry-Glade Spring in the first round of the regional tournament.
The team is batting .363. The lineup includes Harris (.470), Royal (.418), Pendleton (.373), Holly Britt (.371) and Phillips (.358).
"We're strong up and down the lineup," Harris said.
Phillips has been named the pitcher of the year for both the Three Rivers District and Region C. She is 12-2 with a 0.90 ERA, 71 strikeouts and 28 walks in 85 innings.
But Pendleton was the winning pitcher the past two games.
Because Phillips had lost to James River in last year's regional tournament, Thompson opted to start Pendleton against James River in last week's regional final. Pendleton threw a three-hit shutout.
Pendleton also pitched four scoreless innings of relief to earn the victory in Tuesday's state quarterfinal.
After pitching in only a few games for Floyd last season, Pendleton is 7-0 with a 0.66 ERA, 47 strikeouts and 23 walks in 53 innings this year.
"Karlee's got more spin pitches than I do," Phillips said. "I have more speed."
Three of the Buffaloes are trying to win their second state championship of the year. Phillips, shortstop Aimee Royal and center fielder Kristen Mills were part of the girls basketball team that won the Group A Division 2 title in March.
Royal said she would be amazed if she won another state title this weekend.
"I can't really put into words how happy I would be," she said.
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