The top-ranked Buford softball team is going to be playing for another region title.
The Lady Wolves clinched an appearance in the Region 7-AAA championship game on Thursday with an 8-0 win over East Hall in the winner’s bracket game of the tournament on Tuesday night at Lanier Point Athletic Complex in Gainesville.
Buford (28-1) will face either Banks County or East Hall in the championship and will need just one victory to secure the region’s No. 1 seed in the state tournament.
“You come into the tournament hoping to get to that spot and you’re hoping to be undefeated,” Buford coach Tony Wolfe said. “We’re glad to be where we’re at and we feel like we’re playing pretty well and hopefully we can keep it going on Thursday.”
The Lady Wolves built a 7-0 lead in the first inning and added another in the fifth inning to secure the win by run-rule over East Hall on Tuesday night.
Bria Bush pitched all five innings for Buford and held East Hall to just one hit. The University of Tennessee commitment allowed no runs and struck out seven batters to earn her 10th shutout of the season.
“(Bria) is pretty special,” Wolfe said. “We are pushing her a little bit more and asking her to pitch a little bit more this week. This is the first time she’s gone back-to-back, so I’m really happy with how she threw the ball overall.”
For East Hall, Kaityln Poole made her first pitching appearance since Sept. 6, starting the game on Tuesday night. Poole lasted only an inning after she allowed seven runs off five walks.
Natalie Winters replaced her in the pitching circle. The senior allowed one unearned run — the Lady Wolves’ final run in the fifth inning.
In the first inning, Niki Cook led off the inning for Buford, reaching base on an East Hall error. She stole second and third base before Remington Hasty walked. Hasty stole second base, and on the throw, Cook took home and gave Buford a 1-0 lead.
After a groundout, four consecutive Buford batters walked, making the score 3-0. Then, Sydney Stavro delivered a two-run double, before Bailey Sexton delivered the final run of the inning in the form of an RBI ground out.
“We’ve played so much now, we trust our kids,” Wolfe said. “They are going to attack the right pitches, but they are good at laying off pitches out of the strike zone.
“I thought our discipline was good early, but I’m probably a little disappointed because we seem to have lost our edge after that big first inning. We didn’t have as much energy about us the next few innings.”
Buford was limited in the innings following, thanks largely to the pitching of Winters for East Hall.
Despite not playing with the energy level Wolfe wanted, Buford was able to maintain its lead thanks to the pitching of Bush.
Banks County and East Hall will meet in the final game of the loser’s bracket on Thursday afternoon to decide which team will face Buford in the championship. Whichever team does advance out of the loser’s bracket will need to beat Buford, which is undefeated in the tournament, twice to secure the region’s top seed.
Banks County and Fannin County each clinched playoff spots on Tuesday evening. Banks County beat Dawson County 5-4 and Fannin County routed White County 12-0.
In the matchup later in the night, Banks County beat Fannin County 5-4, scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to earn the opportunity to face East Hall on Thursday afternoon.
For Banks County, Shelby Parson was 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored, while Kaitlyn Stewart was 1 for 2 with an RBI in the win over Dawson County. Savannah Denton pitched four innings with four strikeouts.
Against Fannin County, Haley Warner was 43 for 3 with a run scored and Brenna Parson was 2 for 3 with three runs batted in. Mallory Parson pitched all seven innings and recorded four strikeouts.