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Thomas' career day from the plate leads Buford Lady Wolves past Flowery Branch in softball
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Teammates cheer for Buford's Samantha Thomas as she nears home plate after hitting a home run Tuesday during the Buford softball game against Flowery Branch at Buford High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Buford softball’s Samantha Thomas did a little more than just make a big statement from the plate during her first multi-home run showing of the year to help the Lady Wolves to their third Region 8-AAAAA victory of the season on Tuesday in Buford.

The senior second baseman (2 for 3, 2 runs, 3 RBI) became the program’s all-time leader in career-home runs with 31 — surpassing 2015 graduate Jordan Deep (30), who is now a sophomore at the University of North Georgia — in the Lady Wolves 8-0 five-inning rout of Flowery Branch.

Thomas put the Lady Wolves (12-1, 3-0 Region 8-AAAAA) on the board in the bottom of the first with one runner on and one out, skyrocketing a 1-2 pitch over the left-center field fence. The Lady Wolves’ first big hit of the day came two batters after leadoff batter Arielle Oda (1 for 2, run scored) was pegged at the plate on a 1-1 pitch inside to start.

Career home run No. 31 for Thomas then came on first-pitch solo shot to right-center field in the bottom of the third to make it a 4-0 game. Thomas even nearly cleared the wall a third time on a deep fly ball caught by Flowery Branch right fielder Alyssa Kimbrell at the warning track.

“Typically, people want to come way in on us and try to get in on the handle, or want to pitch us away,” head softball coach Tony Wolfe said. “They (Flowery Branch) do a good job of mixing it up. A pitch or two got over the middle of the plate a little bit, and we were able to capitalize with a couple of big home runs.”

Thomas’ second homer of the afternoon also kick started a four-run surge in the bottom of the third. Hannah Jo Hyatt reached on a standup double with one out, while Shea Bayreuther and Katie Perkins added two-out RBI-singles, back to back. The Lady Wolves also capitalized on two fielding errors to score the final run of the inning.
The entire Lady Wolves batting order compiled six additional hits behind Thomas.

Arielle Oda extended her hit streak to 13 games with a second-inning single left field. Gabby Benson (2 for 3, run scored) singled twice for the Lady Wolves and scored the final run of the evening in the fifth frame on a shortstop error.

Flowery Branch’s Choe Zoeller reached on a leadoff double to start the game, then advanced to third on a squeeze bunt along the first base line. But that was the closest the Falcons could get, as Buford starting pitcher Ansley Byers escaped the early jam on a forced flyout to second, and then fielded a chopper to fire to her first baseman Perkins for the third out.

Byers (5 IP) went on to retire 11 of the final 13 batters with three strikeouts, one walk and no hits allowed.

“I thought Ansley pitched very well today, really worked quick and battled in the strike zone today,” Wolfe added. “So we’re really happy how we played overall.”

Despite the loss, Flowery Branch (8-11; 3-1 Region 8-AAAAA) coach Laura Beaver said the loss will hopefully prepare her team for the next few region games on the docket and even further down the road into postseason play.

“Playing a team like Buford, we had our opportunities, we made errors, we pitched great on the rubber. We had runners on base and didn’t capitalize. Otherwise it’s a different ballgame,” Beaver said.

Buford will play North Hall at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega for a 5 p.m. non-region matchup on Wednesday. Flowery Branch hosts Walnut Grove at the Branch on Thursday.