Bauxite brings in honors

Bauxite senior Bailey Buffington throws a pitch in a 4A championship game win over Pottsville on Friday, May 18, at Lady Panthers Field in Benton. Buffington earned her fourth All-State honor. BLAKE FOGLEMAN/Special to The Saline CourierBauxite junior Taylor Sledd makes contact in a 4A state championship game win over Pottsville on Friday, May 18, at Lady Panthers Field in Benton. Sledd was named All-State. BLAKE FOGLEMAN/Special to The Saline CourierBauxite senior Daniele Singleton makes a diving catch in a 4A state championship game win over Pottsville on Friday, May 18, at Lady Panthers Field in Benton. Singleton was named All-State. BLAKE FOGLEMAN/Special to The Saline Courier
Sports Editor

After winning their first ever 4A state championship, a 5-2 win over Pottsville, the Bauxite Lady Miners were recently postseason honored. Three Lady Miners took All-State honors, while eight total earned All-Conference.
Seniors Bailey Buffington and Daniele Singleton, and junior Taylor Sledd earned All-State, with Buffington taking her fourth such All-State selection.
“You don’t ever get to coach a kid who makes All-State all four years,” Bauxite Coach Sara Tew said of Buffington. “That’s very, very rare. She was the first kid to make All-State while I’ve been coaching and she made it all four years.”
On the mound her senior year, Buffington, who was the state tourney MVP, finished 30-2 with a career-high 0.95 ERA, striking out a career-high 211 batters vs. just 14 walks, and giving up just 87 hits in 161.2 innings pitched.
“It’s hard to replace any of them,” Tew said of her Lady Miners, “especially ones like Daniele who plays out there (centerfield) all the time, or even Shelby (Chavers), who didn’t make All-State but she’s great defensively and has great speed, but you just don’t get to coach kids like Bailey every year. It’s probably not something I’ll ever get to have again. If I do, that’s really lucky.”
Buffington also did it with the bat this season, hitting .408 with six doubles, a homer and 25 RBIs.
“Bailey obviously helped us pitching, but her hitting, too, she moved up in the lineup and helped us out a lot,” Tew said.
After a surprise trip to the 4A finals in 2015, Tew acknowledged that the Lady Miners actually had better teams the two years after their first state championship appearance, but were met with early exits in the state tourney in 2016 and 2017.
“Out of the last four years she’s been there, her freshman year was the weakest team that we’ve had,” Tew said. “We made it to the finals, but really those two years in between, especially 2017, was the best team that we’ve had. Stakes fall into place at different times, but having her out there, the presence that she had, is something we can’t just replace.
“She was kind of the leader, even as a freshman. The rest of the kids looked up to her and she kept us in a lot of games her freshman year with her pitching.”
Tew said the Lady Miners will use a combination of three junior pitchers next year in Buffington’s absence, but it’s going to look much different without Buffington in the circle.
“They all have different good qualities,” Tew said of the incoming pitchers, “but it’s going to look a lot different than when you just know, ‘Okay, Bailey is going to pitch today.’ She’ll definitely be missed, but I think she’s going to have a great season at Crowder (College) and she’s going to go on after Crowder and be able to pitch somewhere bigger.”
For her four-year high school pitching career, Buffington finished 108-19 (.850 win percentage) with a 1.19 ERA. She struck out 728 batters vs. just 56 walks in 682 innings pitched, giving up 491 hits.
Singleton earned her second All-State selection after leading the Lady Miners with 42 runs, while also batting .443 with five doubles, a triple and homer, while knocking in 25 runs and also stealing eight bases.
“Daniele had a good year overall,” Tew said. “Defensively, she played every game in centerfield and led off for most of the season.”
After a slow start to the season, Sledd, also with her second All-State honor, came on when it counted at the end and finished with a .405 average, leading the Lady Miners with nine doubles, five home runs and 32 RBIs. Sledd also scored 29 runs.
“Taylor kind of came on toward the end,” Tew said. “She kind of had a little lull there for awhile, as far as hitting. She was always solid defensively, but she came on, especially in the state tournament and hit really well. All of postseason, I guess.”
Sledd and Buffington also made the All-State Tournament Team, as did junior shortstop Destiny McClain, who also made First-Team All-Conference.
“I thought she had a great tournament, both sides of it,” Tew said of McClain offensively and defensively. “I thought she hit really well and started a lot (offensively).”
McClain finished her season with a .393 average with five doubles, three home runs and a triple, scoring 38 times and knocking in 27 runs.
Also making First-Team All-Conference was senior Shelby Chavers and juniors Cheyenne Harris and Ashley Redmon.
Chavers batted .391 with two doubles and three triples, knocked in 17 and was second on the team with 41 runs. Chavers also had 13 stolen bases to lead Bauxite.
Harris led the Lady Miners with a .444 average with a double, home run, 18 runs and 20 RBIs.
Redmon hit .322 with eight doubles, two triples and a homer, scoring 38 runs and 24 RBIs.
Making Second-Team All Conference was freshman Olivia McDade and sophomores Kaia Thornton and Bree Hardin, who pitched and played the outfield.
McDade hit .253 with 12 runs and 16 RBIs, Thornton had a .357 average with three doubles, two home runs, 17 runs and 22 RBIs, and Hardin hit .333 with four doubles, two triples, two homers, 23 runs and 27 RBIs. Hardin was also 5-0 with an 0.98 ERA in the circle, striking out 17 in 21.1 innings pitched.