Lady Wolves’ starting pitcher Melissa Higginbotham, outfield Nichole Bell, second baseman Jennifer Tucker and catcher Ashley Razey have been part of two Lady Wolves’ teams that have finished in third place, in 2005 and 2006, and aren’t interested in a similar finish.
"There is a passion in the girls to try and get past that third place game," said first-year Buford coach Tony Wolfe. "We talked about being proud and being excited about earning a trip to Columbus and that it shouldn’t ever get old, but let’s go in with the mentality of trying to finish this time.
"I think these girls want more."
The Lady Wolves (29-6-1, 9-1 Region 6-AA) come into today’s 2 p.m. matchup with Savannah Christian having gone 3-0 in the North Sectional last weekend in Rome. They beat Morgan County 2-1, Rockmart 4-3 and Calhoun 6-3 to advance to this weekend’s state finals.
"We are hoping that we play a lot better (in Columbus) than we did at sectionals," said Razey. "We want to do it big this year."
Higgenbotham won all three games in the circle for Buford, and Razey reached base 11-of-13 times going 5-for-9 with four walks and a homerun.
"Defensively we’re very strong and have been all year and most of the year we’ve been a good offensive team," said Wolfe. "But in Columbus it’s more about pitching and defense and who can execute in the small parts of the game."
According to Bell and Higgenbotham this past week of practice has been a good starting point for a run at a state title. "The energy has been off the charts," said Bell.
"We have been really excited but really focused on what we’re doing," added Higgenbotham, "we’ve had tough practices that have really prepared us."
Prepared them for facing the top softball talent in the state including another possible run-in with Region 6-AA nemesis Greater Atlanta Christian, a team Buford went 1-4 against during the regular season by a combined score of 12-8.
"We are looking forward to seeing the best Georgia has," said Wolfe. "It will be tense."
The Lady Wolves’ seniors each noted one thing that makes this year’s team different from the third-place finishers of the past, "We gel together and get along," said Tucker. "We trust each other, just talent by itself can only get you so far but talent and trust combined are vital to winning."
"We play well together as a team," said Higgenbotham. "Everyone steps up at big times."
"We have the mentality to win state already," said Bell "We all want it (a state championship) so much and we know we can get that far. With the team we have and the effort we put forward, it’s easy to let everyone step up and go big for it."
The Lady Wolves understand that winning a state championship isn’t based solely on the amount of talent a given team has but also the amount of luck combined in with the talent.
"Everyone knows that the talent is there and if we don’t win state it won’t be because we weren’t talented enough or girls don’t step up," said Higgenbotham.
Her teammate Razey added, "It would be because things just didn’t go our way."
"We feel like we’re good enough to be playing the final day but there’s so much that goes into it," said Wolfe. "If we play well, we’ll be satisfied with whatever comes our way...if we play Buford softball then we will except our fate."
Elsewhere in the area, the Jefferson softball team will also start a quest for a state championship by playing Savannah Country Day at 4 p.m. today in the Class A state finals in Columbus.
Leading the Lady Dragons (19-8, 11-1 Region 8-A) will be senior first baseman Brittany Crews and senior pitcher Kimberlee Tolbert.