Buford crushes Morgan County in second-round sweep

MADISON -- Buford combined solid starting pitching with timely hitting as the Wolves defeated No. 10 Morgan County by scores of 5-0 and 9-2 in the second round of the Class AA state baseball playoffs at Tracy Brown Field.

With the two-game sweep in the best-of-three series, Buford (20-10) advances to the quarterfinals Tuesday when it will host Pierce County.

"In that second game, we missed some early chances and I was getting kind of concerned," Buford head coach Tony Wolfe said. "But I thought we did a good job of putting an inning together late when I thought (Morgan County) was trying to slowly climb back into it. We played solid defense, pitched well and got guys contributing up and down the lineup offensively."

In Game 1, senior Sam Clay was sensational as the left-hander fired a one-hitter and struck out 13 in the 5-0 Buford win.

Only a lone infield single by Will Henry in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs spoiled the no-hit bid by Clay.

Clay, who went the distance, also walked five and hit a batter.

Clay's biggest trouble came in the bottom of the third when Morgan County loaded the bases on three straight walks to lead off the frame.

But Clay came back and got a flyout to center and a pair of strikeouts to silence the Bulldogs' threat.

That kept the Buford lead at 2-0 and the Wolves grabbed the momentum.

Brian Malone hit the first pitch he saw in the top of the fourth over the wall in straight-away center field to give the Wolves a 3-0 lead.

Buford wasn't finished in the inning as the Wolves plated two more runs to make it 5-0 when Josh Bryan (1-for-4, three RBI) drove home Shawn Reynolds and Austin Upshaw (1-for-2, two runs, two walks) with a clutch two-out single.

That would be plenty for Clay, who set down Morgan County in order in the fourth inning and allowed a leadoff walk in the fifth before Henry reached on the Bulldogs' one and only hit of the game in the sixth.

Clay closed it out in the seventh with his third one-two-three inning of the game.

"Sam had that one inning again where he just couldn't find the strike zone," said Wolfe. "But I thought he really did a great job of focusing and shutting down that rally. Except for that one inning, he was sharp and kept us in the lead."

Buford had posted the early 2-0 lead with single runs in the second and third.

Joey Bart knocked in Mikey Bart with a single up the middle in the second to give the Wolves an early 1-0 lead.

Then Bryan reached on an error that scored Upshaw to increase the advantage to 2-0.

Kyler Berrett led the Buford seven-hit attack with a 2-for-4 day at the plate that included a pair of singles and a run scored.

Game 2 had a similar tone to it as Buford got steady pitching from Upshaw in the complete-game victory as the sophomore allowed just two runs on six hits while striking out five and walking two.

"Austin started out as probably our third or fourth starter this season," said Wolfe. "But due to some circumstances, he moved up to the No. 2 spot and has done a great job for us. He kept us in the game and competed. That's all we can ask of him."

Upshaw's pitching was backed by an offense that cranked out nine runs and 12 hits en route to the series-clinching victory.

Buford posted single runs in the first and third innings to take a 2-0 lead.

Bryan's groundout scored Reynolds in the first and Berrett's groundout scored Reynolds again in the third for the two-run margin.

Morgan County scored its first run of the series as Dustin Taylor's groundout plated Roderick Rhodes to cut the Buford lead to 2-1.

Buford blew it open in the fifth with seven runs without the benefit of an extra base hit as the Wolves sent 12 batters to the plate.

An infield single by Bryan got Reynolds (2-for-4, three runs) and Leo Narrison home. Then

Mikey Bart followed with another infield single to score Berrett to increase the lead to 4-1.

After Malone drew a bases-loaded walk to push the Buford lead to 6-1, two more RBI singles by Joey Bart (3-for-4, RBI) and Cameron Gazaway made it 8-1.

Reynolds' sacrifice fly to score Malone finished the seven-run outburst and put away Morgan County for the game and the series.