COLUMBUS - This time, the irresistible force beat the immovable object.
Ashley Razey got the best of her longtime rival Jessica Coan for an eighth-inning grand slam that lifted No. 2 Buford past top-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian 4-0 in the winner's bracket final Friday at the Class AA state softball tournament.
Razey's blast - her 10th of the season - came in the first extra frame with the bases loaded and one out and put the Wolves (32-6-1) into today's championship round with two chances to take the title, beginning at 11:15 a.m.
"I'm tired, but I'm awfully happy," Buford coach Tony Wolfe said after his team won for the second time in five meetings with its Region 6-AA rival. "My first thought (when Razey's blast left the bat) was, 'Finally.'
"We've lost three times in a row to Jessica Coan. She's an amazing pitcher, and we had some chances against her (in previous meetings). (Coan and Razey) are two of the biggest players (in the state). This time, (Razey) won."
Coan (28-1) was having another typically dominant performance up until Razey's heroics, holding Buford scoreless on three hits and recording all but one of her 14 strikeouts in regulation.
But Melissa Dickie (3-0) matched Coan nearly pitch for pitch. The freshman scattered six hits and struck out seven over eight innings for the complete-game shutout - although the Spartans (36-2-1) had a few scoring opportunities.
Once the game moved to extra innings, momentum turned toward Buford after a one-out single by Whitney Holman - one of two hits for her on the night - moved international tie-breaker runner Brandi Hellemn to third.
Chelsie Thomas then got a bunt down, and while Coan held Hellemn at third, Thomas reached to force the Spartans to pitch to Razey, who had two hits in three previous at bats.
Then with a 2-2 count, the senior catcher got her hands in on an inside screwball and launched it over the fence in straightaway center to put Buford in front 4-0.
"This year, (Coan) has had my number," Razey said. "It's a never-ending battle. We've been going at it since we were little.
"She tried to jam me, but I got out in front of it, and I hit it really well."
The loss sent GAC into an elimination game against Berrien County this morning at 9:15 for a shot at a rematch with Buford. The Spartans must then beat the Wolves twice to avoid another near-miss after finishing as state runner-up the last two years and placing third three years ago.
"We really don't have time to be concerned with the past," GAC coach Judy Tenney said. "What we're thinking about now is, 'What about tomorrow? What do we have to do to win three ball games?'"
SideBar: CLASS AA STATE SOFTBALL
Today in Columbus
9:15 a.m. - GAC vs. Berrien County
11:15 a.m. - GAC/Berrien Co. vs. Buford (if necessary game follows)