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Buford beats Fannin in championship game, 5-3
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BUFORD — So far, so good in Buford’s quest for a sixth consecutive state softball title. The Lady Wolves, who won five straight state championships in Class AA, claimed their first 7-AAA Region title on Thursday, topping Fannin County, 5-3.

“The biggest thing about region championships — and they’re great, we love them — but the biggest thing is you’re assured of playing at home in the first two rounds (of the state playoffs),” Buford coach Tony Wolfe said. “So we’ll be at home at Buford until (the Elite Eight in Columbus), and we’re excited about that.”

Lady Wolves pitcher Bria Bush worked a complete game in the winning effort, and impressed her coach with a gritty performance.

“I thought Bria was outstanding in the circle last night (in a semifinal win over Dawson County), and she didn’t have her best stuff tonight, but I was really proud of the way she gutted her way through.” Wolfe said. “You could tell she was really running out of juice, but she just dug a little deeper and found a way to get through it.”

Bush scattered seven hits and four walks across her seven innings of work. Fannin County (22-10), which advanced to the finals with a 5-1 win over Dawson County, had opportunities in each inning, but with the exception of the fourth, Bush never allowed the Lady Rebels’ baserunners to come in bunches.

Buford (24-2) seized the early lead in the second inning, when Jordan Deep and Drew Puckett walked, Jazmin Hawkins laid down an RBI bunt single with two outs, and Noah Sudderth followed with a sharply hit single that drove in two.

The Lady Wolves added to their lead and provided all the scoring they’d need in the bottom of the third when Remington Hasty led off with a double down the left-field line and Deep smashed a high home run over the left-field fence.

Like Fannin County, Buford had its chances to score more — both teams left seven runners on base — but Lady Rebels pitcher Lauren Hensley was able to work out of trouble the rest of the game.

“I thought Fannin County did a great job,” Wolfe said. “They threw a thousand changeups, it seemed like, and frustrated us a little bit. But we were able to get a couple of innings with some runs, and I thought we played good defense all night, and through the whole tournament.”

The Lady Rebels had their best chance to threaten the Buford lead in the top of the sixth when Hensley reached on a walk, stole second, and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. Mallery Deal followed with a ringing grounder to third, but Buford’s Bailey Sexton snagged it and threw home where Sudderth applied the tag for the second out of the inning. Bush struck out the next batter and the would-be rally was squelched.

Deep’s two-run homer led the Lady Wolves’ offense, which had seven hits from seven different sources.

Fannin County was led offensively by Allie Barfield (2 for 3) and Missy Dixon (1 for 4, two RBIs).

The first round of state begins with a best-of-three series that opens Wednesday with a doubleheader. Buford awaits the loser of the Decatur/St. Pius X Region 6-AAA consolation series. As 7-AAA’s No. 2 seed, Fannin County will play the winner of the series.

Dawson County, 7-AAA’s No. 3 seed, will play the loser of the Woodward Academy/Blessed Trinity 6-AAA championship series.