Buford High’s softball program enters 2012 on a remarkable run as state champion in Class AA for five consecutive seasons. However, Lady Wolves coach Tony Wolfe knows it will be quite the challenge to extend the streak to six this season as a new member of Class AAA.
“I think it becomes too much pressure if you think too much about it,” Wolfe said. “I know we’ve been blessed with success beyond what we deserve.”
This year, Buford has left behind a top-heavy Region 6-AA as it moves into a rather deep Region 7-AAA.
In Region 7-AAA, White County was a state champion just two years ago. North Hall and West Hall have also had pretty consistent success over the past decade, while East Hall is a program on the rise. And Dawson County has one of the top pitchers in the state with senior Jenna Abbott, an Auburn University commit.
Also in Region 7-AAA, Fannin County appeared in the state tournament at Columbus in Class AA last season.
“Every school in Region 7-AAA, top to bottom, is tough,” Dawson County coach Jimmy Pruett said. “This is one of the toughest regions for softball in the state. There’s no gimmie games.”
Even though the Lady Wolves bring back a substantial amount of talent from last year’s state title run, it will be hard to replace graduated seniors Lexi Overstreet and Kallie Case. Both four-year starters, Overstreet is now with the University of Tennessee and Case is at the University of Alabama, leaving a hole for two new starters on the left side of the infield.
“At some point, we hope to be very competitive this season,” Wolfe said. “But it’s not going to be right off the bat.”
However deep the absence of those two star players may be for Buford, Wolfe knows his program has a strong footing in the pitching circle. Sophomore pitchers Bria Bush (12-4, 1,26 ERA) and Tessa Daniels (17-4, 1.21) are both back to handle the load in the circle.
“I feel real good about those two pitching,” Wolfe said.
The Lady Wolves also have four starters back that played a big part with their offensive production in last season’s state championship run. Sophomore Remington Hasty hit .469 last season with 15 RBIs and 23 hits, while sophomore Jordan Deep was .383 with 27 runs scored and 37 RBIs. Noah Sudderth (.333, 10 RBIs) and Rebekah Rude (.280 avg., 28 hits) are also back in the lineup for Buford in 2012.
Pruett is counting on junior pitcher Martie Rogers to help bring some depth to the pitching staff, along with Carly Gilreath, Samantha Molder and Natalie Burt at the plate.
At Gainesville, the Lady Red Elephants are looking to rebound from a one-win season in 2011. Gainesville is led by seniors Sarah Arenas, Kaitlyn Roper and Mikaylei Byrd, and junior Rachel Funk. Lady Red Elephants coach Michelle Green also had a group of sophomores, including Angel Goss, Abby Smallwood and Kayla Street.
In Class AAAAAA, Habersham Central is looking to make it back to the postseason this season after a playoff appearance in Class AAAA in 2011. Meanwhile, White County cracked the playoffs last year in Class AAA.
Union County and Dawson County were playoff squads last season in Class AA.