Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Buford's Zac Lynn, left, doesn't make the tag in time on Pike County's Kody Adams during the second game of their doubleheader in the Class AA state championship game on Saturday.
BUFORD -- Looking for its first title in baseball since 1977, Buford will have to wait two more days to see if the long absent championship will return.
Facing Pike County in the Class AA finals on Saturday night, Buford battled the Pirates to a split, dropping the opener 10-3 but finding its offensive stroke in the nightcap for a 14-4 win.
The draw on Saturday sets up a deciding third game on Monday at 4 p.m. Buford will have the advantage of being the home team after winning the coin toss minutes after the second game ended.
"I'm proud of the way our guys came back in the second game," Buford head coach Tony Wolfe said. "It wasn't anything that I said to them, they just wanted to come out and win."
Buford (30-4) entered the finals on a hot streak with 13 wins in a row. However, Pike County put an end to that streak as the Pirates took the opener 10-3.
Pike County starter Kody Adams pitched six strong innings in keeping the Buford hitters off balance, striking out eight, while allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks.
"He did that to us last year," Wolfe said as Adams helped Pike County oust Buford in the tournament's second round in 2010. "He did a really good job for them."
The Pirates (31-7) also took advantage of two Buford errors in the opener to plate three unearned runs off starter Sam Clay.
Clay was strong for four innings, but ran into trouble in the fifth, giving up four runs. Three of those came off the bat of Chris Long, who launched a long homer down the left-field line, putting the Pirates up 6-0.
Clay left with 41/3 innings work, being charged with six runs (three earned) on seven hits, four walks and two strikeouts.
The Wolves scratched out a run in the bottom of the fifth when James Nix doubled and later scored on Brian Clark's ground out to short.
Buford pulled even closer in the sixth, getting two more runs to cut the score to 6-3. Taylor Harter came in as a pinch hitter and delivered a sacrifice fly to center to score Mason Gentry.
The throw to the infield after the catch sailed into the Buford dugout, allowing pinch runner Leo Harrison to come home, making it a three-run game at 6-3.
But the highly-touted Pirate offense did more damage in the seventh, getting four runs on a pair of two-run homers. Long, who finished 2-for-4 with five RBIs, hit his second home run of the game with a long shot over the scoreboard in left, while Chad Kirksey provided the second two-run shot with a homer to right center.
Any doldrums Buford suffered in Game 1 quickly went away in Game 2 as the Buford bats exploded for 14 runs on 13 hits as the Wolves pounded the Pirates 14-4 in six innings.
Five of those Buford hits were home runs, giving starter Jake Burnette more than enough support he needed.
Burnette, a Georgia Tech signee, pitched all six innings, giving up four runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts and one walk. His only real blemish was a three-run home run he allowed to Blake Edwards.
Buford wasted no time in Game 2, getting four runs in the first, with the big blow a three-run double from Adam Hampton. Hampton was one of five Wolves to homer, finishing 2-for-3 with four RBIs and three runs.
"That hit by Hampton really got us going," Wolfe said.
Buford, which scored at least one run in every inning, picked up a solo home run from Brian Clark in the second, while Josh Heddinger (solo shot) and James Nix (two-run shot) helped plate three runs in the third.
Hampton's homer was a solo blast in the fourth, while Troy Herterick hit a three-run homer in the fifth. Burnette would add an RBI sacrifice fly in the sixth, while Clark ended the scoring with an RBI single.
Game 3 will decide who will hoist the state title trophy for the 2011 season. Buford's deep pitching could give the Wolves an edge as Georgia Tech signee Josh Heddinger will get the ball.
"I can't wait to get out there," Heddinger said.
Pike County will turn to Lance Shelton, the pitcher that defeated Lovett in Game 3 of the semifinals a few days ago.
"I am expecting a tight, exciting game," Pike County head coach Don Hanson said. "We've been to third games in each of the last two series. I don't know if that gives us a real advantage, but we do know what it is to play in those elimination games."
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