BUFORD -- It's tough to overshadow a 16 strikeout, three hit, one run complete game, but Kyler Berrett did his best.
The Buford senior turned in an outstanding play in right field to save a run and capped his 2-for-3 night with a two-out, three-run, game winning home run in the fifth inning in the Wolves' 4-1 win over Region 6-AA rival GAC.
"I was going up there looking first-pitch fastball and that's what I got and I took it to centerfield," Berrett said. "I was excited."
He took it 385 feet to straightaway centerfield. He said he knew he got most of the pitch, but wasn't sure it was a home run until he reached first base. And it was no trot home, the senior sprinted around the bases.
"To beat GAC is always fun," Berrett said. "It was very exciting."
As a four-year varsity player for Buford, Berrett understands the rivalry with GAC better than most. He knows the players names in the other dugout, a familiarity often lacking between teams even in the same region.
But the win is more than one over a rival, it's the fifth straight for Buford, which struggled early in the season, especially with scoring runs. And before Berrett's big home run, it looked to be the same story Friday.
Starting pitcher Sam Clay dominated the GAC lineup. He struck out two in the first inning and never looked back, retiring six straight at one point. He did walk two batters and hit another, but after every blip an out followed. The 16 strikeouts are the most for the senior in a high school game.
"He's pitched really well his last three outings," Buford coach Tony Wolfe said of the Georgia Tech-bound lefty. "It was a heck of an effort by him."
When Clay found his first bit of trouble in the third inning, it was Berrett who bailed the Wolves out.
With two runners on after an error, GAC's Daino Deas smacked a single to right field. But Berrett's scoop and throw to the plate beat Rafe Chapple easily for the third out, keeping the game scoreless.
"In practice all year, that's what I've been waiting for," Berrett said. "I couldn't have been more happy with that."
Berrett wasn't the only right fielder making big plays though.
GAC's Ross Wood opened the game with a diving catch and also tracked down a would-be double by Clay in deep right center in the third. Spartans' starter Patrick Stone also pitched well in his 5 innings, allowing four runs off four hits, but before the big fifth inning, he had stranded four runners on base.
It was in the top of the fifth that GAC took a 1-0 lead on an RBI-double by Jordan Dudek to score Chapple. But after the go-ahead hit, Clay struck out Dias to end the inning and keep the score within reach.
Buford's bats answered.
Josh Bryan tied the game with a fielder's choice to scored Troy Herterick taking the pressure of off Berrett and freeing him to take a big cut on the fastball.
"It is a very, very big win," Berrett said. "This team is so young (it boosts) our confidence the rest of the season."