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Buford cruises into elite eight

BUFORD -- After easily eliminating its first two opponents in the Class AA softball playoffs, Buford now faces a formidable challenge -- not losing momentum during eight days off before its sixth straight appearance in the elite eight tournament at the Columbus Softball Complex beginning Oct. 28.

"In some ways, so much time off is a good thing. And in some ways, it's a worry," said Wolves coach Tony Wolfe. "You're always afraid you'll lose your momentum. We've been down there enough to know it'll be hard."

Three-time defending state champion Buford is 12-1 in Columbus in that span and appears a good bet to again challenge for a championship. Winners of 16 straight, including eight by shutout, the Wolves have breezed through the first two rounds of the playoffs at home -- last week against Dawson County and Wednesday against Dade County. The Wolves beat Dawson 6-0 and 10-1 and Dade 12-3 and 8-0, with the latter three games truncated to five innings by an eight-run rule.

Buford will now wait to face Jeff Davis at noon on Oct. 28.

North Georgia signee Melissa Dickie's two-run homer gave the Wolves (28-4) a 4-0 lead over Dade (24-14) in the second game, while Georgia Tech signee Karly Fullem was pitching a one-hitter. Fullem finished Wednesday's doubleheader with four hits and six RBIs, including two hits and five RBIs in the first two innings of the first game.

"I was hitting my spots really well and had a low pitch count, so my arm didn't feel tired," Fullem said. "It felt good to contribute offensively, too."

The Wolves led Dade 2-0 an inning into the second game on RBIs by Kallie Case and Fullem. After Dickie's homer, they added four runs in the third on two singles, a fielder's choice and a passed ball. Madyson Wynegar had a pair of singles and an RBI, while Kodi Ricketson contributed two hits as well.

The Wolves combined for 20 hits in the 10 innings against Dade, a first-round winner over Manchester. Chelsie Thomas, who had three hits and two RBIs and scored three runs against the Wolverines, upped her team-leading batting average to .440. Lexi Overstreet scored three runs, but couldn't improve her team-high 37 RBIs.

"When we're swinging the bats well, we're a pretty good softball team," Wolfe said.

Buford outhit Dade 9-3 in the first game, as Fullem led the way with two hits and five RBIs, and Thomas had two hits and drove in a run. Cara Cole and Overstreet chipped in two hits apiece.

The Wolves led 5-1 after an inning and 8-2 after two, sparked by Fullem's three-run double and two-run single in those innings, respectively.

Buford added another four runs in the fourth on a hit and two errors.