Austin Wilhite’s two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning was the exclamation point on the end of an outstanding offensive game for defending state champion Buford on Monday as they took a 14-3 victory over Chestatee High in Gainesville.
The War Eagles (5-10, 2-4 8-AAAA) were the first on the board as lead off batter Cameron Wilson walked on five pitches.
He moved to third on back-to-back passed balls and scored two batters later on a Buford (13-2, 6-0) error.
The fourth-ranked Wolves took the lead in the top of the second inning as Griffin Jolliff singled and advanced on a wild pitch.
The third baseman scored as Justin Glover hit a triple to straightaway center field.
Two batters later, catcher Noah Ledford hit a double up the first base line to score Glover.
The War Eagles didn’t answer in the bottom of the second, but they did in the third as pitcher Austin Sargent smacked an 0-1 pitch over the left field fence.
With the score tied at 2-all, Buford scored four runs with two outs in the top of the fourth. Then, in the top of the fifth, they added another four runs.
In the sixth inning, a single run, with Ledford driving in Dillon Lancaster, was the only one plated in the inning.
In the seventh, Tanner Alexander started off the inning with a single before Brandon Marsh drove him in with a triple to left-center field.
Two pitches later, Marsh scored on a home run to straightaway center field by Georgia Tech commit Austin Wilhite.
Down 14-2, Wilson led off the bottom of the seventh inning for the War Eagles with a single.
Joe Sutton then drove him in with a double into left field. The Wolves nailed the relay to the plate from the outfield fence, but Wilson’s head-first slide slipped under the tag at the dish.
As a team, Buford was 16 of 36 at the plate and left seven runners on base.
“Our lineup is really deep,” Wolves’ coach Tony Wolfe said. “We like it 1-9. Obviously we’re really talented at the top with Marsh and the Wilhites, but we really feel like our lineup is strong all the way through.”
Eight of the Wolves’ nine starting batters had a hit in the contest, and eight of nine also scored at least one run.
Ledford led the way from the seven spot in the order, going 3 of 4 with two runs scored and four RBIs.
Alexander and Wilhite each were 2 for 4 with three RBIs. Alexander scored a pair of runs and Wilhite crossed the plate once — his home run.
Marsh was 3 for 5 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
Just as impressive as the Wolves’ plate presence, their pitchers put on a show as well.
Starter Zach Fordham tossed four strong innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks. He recorded three strikeouts, while facing 20 batters and throwing 60 pitches.
“He was a little bit all over the place, but he stayed around enough to get outs,” Wolfe said. “He had the one pitch he gave up the home run on, but, overall, I’m pleased with his effort. Any time we just give up a couple of runs, I feel like we have a good chance to win with our offense.”
Coming in for a relief appearance, Tyler Perkins pitched the final three innings.
Perkins’ first two innings saw him throw 32 pitches and strikeout the side in order.
In the seventh, Perkins struckout the first batter he saw before giving up the single to Wilson and double to Sutton.
He closed the game with a five-pitch strikeout.
Overall, Perkins threw 59 pitches, struck out eight, walked one and gave up a run on two hits.
“I just got out there and threw fastballs and got them offspeed with my changeup and curveball,” Perkins said. “Luckily my curveball and changeup were accurate tonight and kept them off balance.
“Tonight, I was really feeling it,” he continued. “Everything was really working for me tonight.”
Wolfe said the coaches were keeping up with Perkins as he recorded seven straight strikeouts in the dugout, but said that’s not usually what they see out of the junior.
“He’s a throw it around the plate and change speeds, probably a little bit more of a groundball pitcher than what he showed tonight,” Wolfe said.
Next up, Buford, the region’s top team, travels to North Hall at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday for a matchup with the Trojans, who are ranked second in the region.
“They’ve always got a great club and they’re well-coached,” Wolfe said. “We know we’re going to have to play some of our best baseball when we go up there and play them.”
Chestatee travels to White County on Wednesday.