BUFORD — The last time Tessa Daniels pitched for Buford, she was the winning pitcher in the clinching game of the 2011 state championship series, delivering the Lady Wolves a fifth consecutive state championship.
This time, she pitched two innings, allowed no runs and struck out two Wednesday to jump start a 13-1 win over St. Pius X in Game 2 of the first round of the state playoffs which, coupled with a 11-4 win in Game 1, moves top-seed Buford (26-2) into the second round of the Class AAA playoffs against the winner of the North Murray/Franklin County series.
The series will start next Wednesday with a doubleheader at Buford. The Lady Wolves played North Murray in the second round last season, winning 8-2 in both games to advance to the final eight.
For Daniels, who suffered a hamstring injury over the summer playing in the national championships, the return to the circle was a welcome development.
“It felt great,” she said. “It was good to have control over a game.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m willing to work to do more.”
That’s the plan. Wednesday, her limit was two innings. In the next series, if her hamstring is fine, she’ll aim for four or five.
It’s a crucial development for a team looking for a sixth straight title, and first in Class AAA.
“She’s a big game pitcher,” said Buford coach Tony Wolfe. “We’ve always thought that it takes two good pitcher to get to Columbus. We’d like to have her all the way back, and we made that first step today.”
Daniels said she hopes to pitch a full seven, if needed, if the Lady Wolves can return to the final eight.
The two innings for Daniels were plenty for a Buford offense that exploded against the Golden Lions (4-25), scoring 24 runs in two games, the second which ended after six innings with the mercy rule.
The Lady Wolves struck quick in the series-clinching game, scoring three runs in the first and three more in the second to take a commanding lead. They would have seven more in the top of the sixth to finish a little early.
Jordan Deep, who also hit a three-run home run in the first game, started off the scoring for Buford in the first inning of the second with a two-run single. She later scored on an error to put Buford up 3-0 after one.
In the second, it was Buford’s Remington Hasty who drove in a pair on a double to center field. Daniels helped herself with an infield RBI single to finish off the scoring in the second.
The southpaw struggled a little in the circle in the bottom half of the second, allowing a leadoff double and a walk to open the frame. But Buford center fielder Niki Cook saved a run after fielding the following batters’ sharp single and firing home for an out at the plate. Daniels struck out the next batter before inducing a weak ground ball for the final out.
“I had a little bit of trouble (in the second),” said Daniels, who needed only seven pitches in the first. “But it was nice that I was able to work out of it.”
Buford pitcher Emily Crocker relieved Daniels in the third and pitched three scoreless innings.
Deep and Hasty each finished with two hits and three RBIs in the second game, and Alexus Murray drove in a run and had two hits as part of Buford’s 17-hit outburst.
BUFORD 11, ST. PIUS X 4: The Lady Wolves used a late rally to defeat the Lady Golden Lions in the opener.
Buford pitcher Bria Bush allowed four runs, three in the sixth inning as St. Pius clawed back to within four, and five hits, while striking out eight to earn the complete-game win.
Jesse Landes pitched all six innings for St. Pius to take the loss, allowing 13 hits and 11 runs, eight earned, while striking out one.
The Lady Wolves’ offense was led by Deep, who finished 2 for 4 with a three-run home run, Daniels (3 for 4, 3 RBIs), Hasty (3 for 3, four runs) and Cook (3 for 4, three runs, three steals).
It was the Lady Golden Lions who opened the scoring in the bottom of the first after Bush walked the leadoff batter, Jordyn Portis, who came around to score on a sacrifice bunt and an RBI single by Sherrod. Bush struck out the next batter to end the threat, and proceeded to throw four consecutive scoreless innings.
The Lady Wolves offense took advantage, starting in the bottom of the first when Hasty drove in Cook, who had reached on a leadoff single. Buford took the lead two batters later on Daniels’ single to center field to drive in Hasty and take a 2-1 lead after one, a lead they would never relinquish.
Hasty scored again on a wild pitch in the third to take a 3-1 lead, and Buford third baseman Baylee Sexton drove in two more runs in the fourth on a bloop single that landed just on the grass in center field. After Hasty’s walk, Deep hit a blast over the center field wall to open up an 8-1 advantage after four.
Sherrod struck again for St. Pius X in the top of the sixth, hitting a two-run double to left field. Madison Jenkins drove in another run on a squeeze bunt to get the visitors to within 8-4.
Buford scored three more times in the seventh, two driven in by Daniels, to account for the final total.