BUFORD — Brandon Marsh never wavered in his approach at the plate. The Buford junior’s single in the seventh inning and walk-off single in the eighth made all the difference in a pitcher’s battle against North Hall on Wednesday at Gerald McQuaig Field.
Marsh’s third and final base hit of the evening was the most important for the third-ranked Wolves (15-2, 7-0). He slapped a hard-hit single that took a high bounce past second base and scored courtesy runner Freeman Edwards from third base to complete Buford’s 3-2 win in eight innings.
The walk-off hit by Marsh emptied the Buford dugout in a spontaneous celebration. Meanwhile, the Trojans (11-6, 6-3) took the loss despite a fantastic seven-inning effort on the mound by Josh Hammond.
“These are the kind of moments you live for,” said Marsh, who finished 3 for 5. “It was a lucky bounce, but I’ll take it.”
The two schools will play the final game of their season series at 6 p.m. Friday at Jody Davis Field in Gainesville.
Buford’s Connor Bennett, a West Virginia signee, pitched the eighth inning to earn the win on the mound. He struck out the final two hitters swinging to get to the home half of the inning with the score tied at 2-2.
Once in the bottom of the eighth, Buford’s Ian Jenkins reached when he was hit by a pitch. Edwards came on to run. He reached second on a passed ball in the dirt and was given a free pass to third on the next pitch with a balk by North Hall reliever Aaron Miles.
With two outs and Freeman at third, Marsh hit the ball hard enough to get through the Trojans’ defense, which was playing deep to start with. It was fitting redemption at the plate for Marsh. He was one of two Wolves hitters to ground into inning-ending double plays with the bases loaded earlier against Hammond.
“You have to give credit to North Hall because they made every play in the field,” Buford coach Tony Wolfe said. “I hate it for them the way it ended because that was a great baseball game.”
In addition to his walk-off hit, Marsh singled and scored the tying run in the bottom of the seventh with two outs on a passed ball.
With the game tied in the top of the eighth, Wolfe gave the ball to the senior Bennett, who got up to 94 mph on radar guns in front of the remaining scouts who came to see Buford lefty Jake Higginbotham’s start. Wolfe said the hard-throwing righty Bennett will start Friday’s game at North Hall.
Even though Higginbotham didn’t have his best stuff, according to Wolfe, the left-hander and possible first-round MLB draft pick did manage to throw the first seven innings, allowing only four hits and a pair of earned runs.
The Trojans scratched out the first run on Drew Coker’s two-out RBI single in the second inning, then took the lead in the top of the seventh with Corbin Lewallen’s two-out, run-scoring double off the right field wall.
Higginbotham got around the mistakes with nine strikeouts and was routinely hitting the low 90s on the radar gun, especially in the first couple of innings.
For North Hall, Hammond’s impressive outing on the mound was good enough to keep it a neck-and-neck battle all night. Despite giving up nine hits, he kept calm and got out of bases-loaded jams in the second and fourth without giving up a big inning.
After allowing an RBI single to Marsh in the second inning, he got Austin Wilhite to ground it to shortstop to begin the double play.
Higginbotham pitched around a North Hall runner at second and only one out in the fifth inning without any runs scoring.
He got the last two outs of the inning on strikeouts. The final one came when he got Fowler Brooks swinging on a 92-mph fastball down in the strike zone.
In the sixth, Higginbotham got off the mound to field a bunt to the third-base side and got it to first in time for the out. Catcher Joey Bart, a Georgia Tech signee, also had a good day with a pair of doubles for the Wolves.
For North Hall, Lincoln Hewett had two sharp singles off of Higginbotham.