COLUMBUS — The Buford Lady Wolves’ softball team leans a lot on its defense and pitching.
It’s sure hard to argue with the results.
Buford won its sixth straight state title Saturday by shutting out Ringgold, 4-0, at South Commons for its first Class AAA state title after five consecutive state championships in Class AA. The Lady Wolves extended their own state record for consecutive titles.
“We’re pretty young, but we never stopped believing in ourselves as a team,” said Buford sophomore pitcher Bria Bush. “We knew that if we could come together as a team, we’d be able to pull through.”
Pull through is just what Buford (32-3) did, outscoring its four Elite Eight opponents 22-1, and posting three shutouts. The Lady Wolves got things going in the bottom of the first inning, scoring a run to take an early 1-0 lead.
“In hindsight, we might have run ourselves out of a bigger inning, but who we are is being aggressive,” said Buford coach Tony Wolfe. “We want to make things happen. Sometimes I gamble and it doesn’t work out, but we’re going to gamble to make things happen.”
The score stayed 1-0 Buford until the third, as Ringgold (32-8) — which had won four straight elimination games to advance to the championship game — kept things close against the Lady Wolves.
However, sophomore Jordan Deep — who’d missed part of the season due to injury — gave Buford some insurance by smashing a two-run homer to make it 3-0 after three innings.
“To win another state championship is pretty amazing,” said Deep. “Just talking about it gives me chills. We have a lot of younger players, but they all stepped up and did it for us. This was such a team win.”
Deep said the homer was her way of busting out of a hitting slump in a big way.
“I’d been struggling hitting (at the state tournament) and I knew it was my time to step up and make it happen. It really gave us some more leeway to try and make things happen.”
Buford maintained its 3-0 lead until the bottom of the sixth, when the Lady Wolves again played longball. This time, Noah Sudderth blasted a homer to left field to give the Lady Wolves a 4-0 advantage and close out the scoring.
Even though she led the entire game, Bush said she never got complacent in the circle. Bush earned the victory in all four of Buford’s wins in the Elite Eight.
“(Deep’s homer) gave me some room to work with, but I always pitch like it’s a 0-0 game,” said Bush. “I always pitch every pitch like it’s the tightest game ever. I’m not going to let up no matter what.”
Bush threw a three-hitter for the Lady Wolves, striking out six and walking none. Niki Cook was 3 for 4 with two stolen bases and scored a run and Tessa Daniels had a hit and an RBI for Buford in the win.
Wolfe said his team’s relative youth — the Lady Wolves start five sophomores and two freshmen at times — helped make this state title run a special one.
“We only start two seniors,” said Wolfe. “Everybody else is younger and I’m so excited for them and I’m so proud of them. I’m proud of the fact that we were able to win six state titles in a row. Lots of people talk about the streak, but this is about this year’s team and I’m very excited and proud of them.”
Deep said it wasn’t just offense that brought Buford its sixth straight state title.
“I like to say defense wins championships,” said Deep. “(Bush) did an amazing job in the circle for us and has done a terrific job lately. We’re known for our defense and that’s how we did it today.”