COLUMBUS — New classification, same old result.
Buford’s softball team won its eighth straight state title Saturday afternoon, thumping Thomas County Central, 9-1, in six innings to win the Class AAAA state title at South Commons Softball Complex. Buford has now won state championships in three different classifications in the last four years (Class AA, AAA and AAAA).
Wolves pitcher Bria Bush tossed a one-hitter to improve to 19-0 in the circle this season.
“This all starts with having good players,” Buford head coach Tony Wolfe said. “We’ve just had quality players throughout this whole run. We have such a great coaching staff and there’s a great tradition and great culture at Buford. The kids know there are high expectations and they play up to those expectations. It really does start with the players, though.”
Thomas County Central — which advanced to the title game with an 8-0 win over Carrollton earlier Saturday — wasn’t intimidated by the Wolves’ run of state titles, loading the bases in the top of the first inning. However, Buford was able to get out of the jam without giving up a run.
“The staples of our team are pitching and defense,” said Wolfe. “Sometimes we have to grind out 2-1 and 3-2 wins and sometimes we score a lot of runs. We made several game-changing plays on defense during this tournament. We had one against Wayne County (Thursday) and a double play with the bases loaded against Walnut Grove (later Thursday). Our defense did a really solid job today and we were able to take advantage of some things they gave us.”
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third, when the Wolves loaded the bases with one out and scored a run on a walk to go up 1-0. The potential was there to score more, but TCC was able to wriggle off the hook. The Jackets weren’t so lucky in the fourth, as the Wolves (37-1) used a combination of walks, aggressive base running and timely hits to score six runs and build a 7-0 lead.
“We’re a good offensive team, but our primary way of scoring is through the speed and bunting game,” Wolfe said. “With the wind being what it was today, we weren’t going to be able to generate much power, but we were able to grind out some at-bats and do it through small ball.”
The Yellow Jackets got a solo homer in the top of the fifth to make it 7-1 and avoid the shutout, but Buford scored single runs in the fifth and sixth to go up 9-1 and end the game early via the eight-run rule. In their four games in Columbus, the Wolves outscored their opponents, 32-4.
“This team is so well-rounded,” said Wolfe. “We’re capable of winning games with our pitching, defense or our hitting. We’ve had to win all those ways this season.”
Samantha Thomas had two hits, including a double, Christy Jarrard was 2-for-2 and Sydney Stavro and Baylee Sexton both had hits for the Wolves, who have won five Class AA titles, two AAA titles and one AAAA championship during their remarkable run.
“This group of seniors has done something really special,” Wolfe said. “It’s not often that you can have a group of kids win state titles in three different classes. I’ll say this, though. Class AAAA is definitely tougher. There were some tough teams here this week. We just did what we needed to do to come out on top.”