When Morgan Walters first stepped on the Buford softball field as a senior this year, she knew her stellar reputation preceded her.
Walters, a transfer student from Mount Pisgah Christian School, was named the Class A Private Player of the Year after leading Mount Pisgah to the state championship last season as a junior.
“We knew that she was a quality player coming in,” Buford coach Tony Wolfe said.
The Lady Wolves were excited to add a player like Walters to the already-deep lineup, according to Wolfe, but Walters admits she was extremely nervous becoming a part of such a strong program.
“There was a lot of pressure,” she said. “Some of the kids came up to me and told me that they knew I had set records at my old school and was player of the year, so I really just wanted to show up and perform.”
She did just that. Walters has been a frequent name on the scoring sheet all season and leads the team in home runs. She added a pair of three-run homers in a doubleheader sweep of Morgan County in the second round of the Class AAA state tournament last Wednesday in Buford. She finished the two games with eight RBIs in her 4-for-6 performance.
For her efforts, Walters is The Times Athlete of the Week.
Although she has clearly found her stride, adjusting to the new environment wasn’t always easy for Walters.
“It’s a totally different feeling here,” Walters said. “The level of competition is higher, and the sense of community is greater here that any other place I’ve played.”
Despite the closeness of her new teammates and the depth on the batting order, Wolfe found a place for Walters to play, and Walters found a place with her new friends.
“She’s given us more power, more flexibility and versatility, and one more player that has seen success at a high level,” Wolfe said.
Walters said that her goal was not to be the star player but simply to help out her new teammates in any way possible.
In the pair of games against Morgan County, that meant bringing the big bats and making the most of a final appearance on Buford’s softball diamond.
“It was our last home game of the season, and being a part of Buford this year, there’s a lot of sentimental values on that field,” Walters said. “A lot of strong bonds were made on that field for me, so I want to help them win seven in a row.”
A seventh straight state championship is something that hasn’t been done before in Georgia high school softball, and Buford’s quest to complete the feat begins at 2:30 p.m. Thursday against Central-Carroll at the Columbus Softball Complex.
If the Lady Wolves win state, it will be the fourth championship in four years for Buford seniors Noah Sudderth and Brittney Hellemn, and the second for Walters and Niki Cook, who came to Buford before last season.
Wolfe noted that the Class of 2010 was the first group of seniors to have four championships in four appearances and that no senior class wants to break the chain. Walters shares this mindset.
“Even though it’s just two for me, it just makes it that much more special,” Walters said. “I want to help out that much more.
“Being the first team to accomplish something like (seven championships) is almost as special as winning it for the first time.”
Wolfe definitely feels that Walters gives the Lady Wolves another advantage heading to Columbus because of her skills on and off the field.
“She’s one of the few people in high school softball who can change games in a swing of the bat, and that doesn’t happen very often,” Wolfe said. “Her work ethic jumps out at you too. She’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached in any sport. She plays the game like Pete Rose.”
Walters and the other three seniors are part of a team that Wolfe considers the “most balanced team” he has ever taken to the state tournament, and he feels that each senior and player brings something unique and necessary to the field.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Wolfe said. “Noah (Sudderth) is heading there for her third year as our starting catcher and caught three games for us in a come from behind win in 2011.
“Brittney Hellemn has a unique perspective because she watched her sister win two before she got to high school, so she’s been around for five (championships).”
This season’s 33-1 team is also one of the youngest Wolfe has taken to the state tournament with only four seniors out of 20 players, but they excel at all aspects of the game.
“We’ve hit for a high average, and we hit over one home run per game, which is rare,” Wolfe said. “We have the ability to play a small ballgame and still have a lot of power in the lineup. Defensively we’re very sound and similar to teams of the past, and we’re good in the circle.”
Juniors Bria Bush and Tessa Daniels will lead Buford pitching, and both have experience winning games in Columbus.
As for Walters, her experience in the state tournament adds another asset for Buford, and she is excited to face new competition.
“The bigger schools have more talent, so you have to bring your A game no matter what,” Walters said. “I’m just really proud of everyone and thankful to them for letting me come in and be a part of this.”