BUFORD — At Buford, winning state championships has become as much of a normal routine as going to class for its student-athletes. For members of the Lady Wolves’ softball team, winning state championships has almost become a way of life.
Entering this season, Buford is chasing a first among Georgia softball teams: A record seventh-straight state championship. With nearly every key player from last year’s team returning this season, Buford is the clear favorite to repeat as the Class AAA champion.
The Lady Wolves know it won’t be easy and they're keeping their focus on this season, rather than past accomplishments.
“I think we have a pretty good chance, but we have a long way to go,” said junior Remington Hasty, a Georgia State commit.
“Everybody is like, ‘Oh, you’re going for your seventh one.’ But to us, we are going for one. All the others are behind us now. Now we are going for another.”
Buford, which won five of its six championships at the Class AA level, once again faces the tough challenge of playing in Region 7, which features the likes of 2010 state champion White County, state tournament contenders Fannin County and Dawson County, and the majority of on-the-rise teams from Hall County.
“Region play and region championships are always important,” said head coach Tony Wolfe.
“No matter what else you do, you want to focus on your region and certainly we have a lot of good competition in our region. We know we are going to have to play well to advance through the region play.”
Before getting into region play, Buford, which finished last year with a 32-3 record, will play in several large tournaments against schools from larger classifications.
The Lady Wolves begin the season Wednesday against Mill Creek in the opening game of the Hawk/Bulldog Invitational, hosted by both Mill Creek and North Gwinnett.
They’ll face Mill Creek, reigning Class AAAAAA champion Archer, North Gwinnett and Brookwood in a three-day span to start the season.
They’ll also face region foe West Hall.
“It is good to know we can hang with them as good as we can with AAA teams,” said right-handed junior pitching standout Bria Bush.
“They are good teams and so are we, so we need that competition to prepare us for state and the year we have ahead of us.”
The Lady Wolves will also play games at the University of North Georgia later in the month before getting into the rest of their regular season schedule. The Region 7-AAA tournament will be held at Lanier Point Park in Gainesville and will begin Oct. 5.
The state tournament begins Oct. 16.
Buford returns nine of the 11 “every day” players from last year’s team, said Wolfe. It starts in the circle with Bush, a University of Tennessee commit, who anchors the Lady Wolves’ pitching staff.
Bush finished last season with a 21-2 record and with an earned run average below 1.00.
Behind Bush is a bevy of Division I-caliber players, including Hasty, Jordan Deep, Tessa Daniels – a Florida State commit – and newcomer Jordan Walters, a Missouri commit.
“We obviously have a very deep and talented team,” Wolfe said. “They have all been through it for us. Basically, we can put nine starters on the field, who have all started in Columbus last year and were on the field for the state championship game.
“These girls have worked insanely hard throughout the spring and summer with their travel teams, playing a high level of softball.”
With so many players returning, the team didn’t have to worry about learning the strengths and weaknesses of one another during preseason practice. The players know the Buford way and what to expect from one another.
“We’re a family,” Hasty said. “We all come together and get to work.”
One of the primary travel teams Buford players worked with over the summer was the Georgia Impact, which sent players to compete in the Premier National Championship Tournament in Orange County, Calif.
Seven players represented Buford at the tournament, including Bush, Deep and Hasty.