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Buford rallies to remain perfect with 9-8 win over North Hall

Wolves scored five in the seventh to take it to extra innings

POSTED: March 26, 2014 10:51 p.m.
Nat Gurley/The Times

Buford's Austin Wilhite slides into home during Wednesday's game against North Hall at Jody Davis Field.

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Griffin Jolliff’s two-run homer for Buford in the seventh inning was what cleared the dugout in celebration around home plate, but it was Jake Mayo’s ground out that drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth and locked up Buford’s 9-8 win over North Hall on Wednesday at Jody Davis Field.

The Wolves (11-0, 8-0 Region 7-AAA) rallied with five runs in the seventh to tie the game, led by Jolliff’s two-run blast and shortstop Austin Upshaw’s two-run double to start the scoring earlier in the inning.

In the eighth, Buford loaded the bases with Austin Wilhite and Upshaw reaching on walks, followed by Nick Wilhite’s single up the middle.

Mayo grounded to shortstop and the lead runner was out at second on the throw, but Austin Wilhite was able to cross the plate to take the lead.

The win was dramatic given the fact North Hall (7-5, 5-3) was in control the majority of the night thanks to 3 2/3 near-perfect innings of relief work by Andrew Smith, who allowed only two hits but was pulled before the Wolves’ seventh-inning rally.

“North Hall is a really hard team to beat, especially up here,” Buford coach Tony Wolfe said. “They outplayed us for 6 1/2 innings.

“We had to play from behind, and really had to overcome our own mistakes, but our kids played hard to the very end.”

Wolfe wouldn’t even begin to second-guess the decision North Hall made to pull Smith from the mound.

“Everyone is on a pitch limit this time of year,” Wolfe said. “Andrew’s a battler and he’ll find a way to beat you no matter where he is on the field.”

With Smith back at shortstop for North Hall, Buford got to work fast on its rally in the seventh. Both of the Wilhite brothers got on base to open the inning, then Upshaw stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and ripped the two-run, extra-base hit to the left field corner.

Mayo came to the plate and walked on four pitches, but a well-fielded grounder by Smith resulted in a double play and left the Wolves with only a runner remaining at third base.

With two outs, Jolliff battled off five foul balls and on a full count knocked the home run to tie the game at 8-8.

“Griffin had been struggling and we felt like he was ready to come through,” Wolfe said. “His home run was the hit of the night.”

In North Hall’s final at bat and the tying run at second, Upshaw got to a grounder headed up the middle and made the throw to first for the second out. Wolfe said that Upshaw has been a great leader in the field all season.

Despite the loss, the Trojans looked like they were in firm control after a four-run sixth inning.

With the bases loaded, Corbin Lewallen had the big hit of the inning with a double to the outfield that Buford’s center fielder slid to field, only to kick the ball off his glove to his right and allow the third run to score.

Smith started the big inning when he was hit by a pitch, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and got to third base on the pitcher’s balk.

Smith reached base in 3 of 5 plate appearances, including a two-strike double down the left field line in the second inning.

Micah Strickland had an RBI triple for North Hall in the fourth inning, one of its four extra-base hits on the night.

Stephen Murray had a double for the Trojans to open the fifth inning, and courtesy runner Drew Atha scored on Josh Hammond’s RBI single.

Nick Wilhite struck first for Buford in the first inning with an RBI double to right field that plated his brother Austin from second base. North Hall countered with two runs to tie the game in the bottom of the inning with Lincoln Hewett’s RBI single, and Lewallen’s grounder for an out that drove in another run.

“Overall, I was proud of how we competed tonight,” North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. “We just weren’t able to catch a break at the end.”

On Friday, Buford plays host to West Hall; North Hall hosts White County at 5:55 p.m.


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