BUFORD — As she warmed up in the fourth inning, Buford High senior Karly Fullem nonchalantly chewed her gum, practiced her pitches, and sang along to Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” as it played over the loudspeakers.
While the song is about one man’s affinity for a girl, Fullem could have very well been singing about how amazing her and the rest of the Lady Wolves were Tuesday against Dade County in the second round of the Class AA state softball tournament.
Fullem had five RBIs in her first two at bats of Game 1 and pitched a two-hit shutout in an 8-0 win in Game 2, leading top-ranked Buford (28-4) to a sweep of the Lady Wolverines (24-14) and another berth in the state semifinals in Columbus. The Lady Wolves will play Jeff Davis at noon Oct. 28 in the semifinals at South Commons Softball Complex.
“I was trying to stay in the zone and the singing was my way of covering up my emotions,” said Fullem, who will play for Georgia Tech next year. “This was my last game playing on this field and I was trying to make the most of it.”
She certainly did that in Buford’s 12-3 win in Game 1.
Trailing 1-0 in the first inning, Fullem stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and smacked a three-run double that scored Chelsie Thomas, Cara Cole and Lexi Overstreet.
Fullem didn’t stop there.
With one out and two runners on in the second inning, the senior came through with a two-run single to put the Lady Wolves ahead 8-2.
“I felt like I was seeing the ball really well,” Fullem said.
So were the rest of the Lady Wolves, who battered Dade County’s Haleigh McBryar for eight runs on six hits in the first two innings, including a two-run double from Game 1 starter Melissa Dickie.
“Offensively, we were really good today,” Buford coach Tony Wolfe said. “We didn’t pitch it too well in Game 1 and we didn’t play our best defense, but when we swing it well, we’re a good softball team.”
All nine Lady Wolves reached base at least once during the first game, with Fullem and Thomas — who went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored — leading the way.
Cole and Overstreet also scored twice in Game 1, and Case added an RBI triple that preceded Fullem’s second-inning single.
With that much offense, Buford was able to overcome the early 1-0 deficit. The three runs Dade County scored were the most any opponent has scored against Buford since a 5-3 loss to Class AAAAA’s Collins Hill on Sept. 15.
“We swung the bats so well, and we have enough speed to cause problems on the bases,” Wolfe said. “That was the difference in Game 1.”
Fullem was the difference in Game 2.
Staked to a 2-0 lead early thanks to an RBI sacrifice fly from Case and her own RBI single in the first inning, Fullem quickly made her presence known by retiring Dade County in order in the bottom of the first.
Buford gave her some run support in the second when Dickie smashed a two-run homer over the left field fence.
Seeing her good friend contribute in their final home game put a smile on Fullem’s face.
“Melissa just started hitting well,” Fullem said. “I know hitting that home run meant a lot to her.”
Dickie’s shot sparked the offense and the Lady Wolves scored four runs in the third inning on three straight singles from Fullem, Kodi Ricketson and Madyson Wynegar and a two-run single from Thomas.
Eight runs were plenty for Fullem, who faced only 17 batters and struck out the final batter of the game to send the Lady Wolves back to Columbus for the sixth straight year.
Fullem said all the trips to Columbus give the Lady Wolves a leg up on the competition.
“We already know what to do,” she said. “It gives us a good advantage over some of the teams who haven’t been there before.”