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Buford rebounds to split with Pierce County

BUFORD -- Defending Class AA state champion Buford was pushed to the brink of elimination by losing Game 1 of its Class AA quarterfinal matchup with Pierce County, but the Wolves rebounded with a 14-2, six-inning victory in Game 2 to set up today's winner-take-all Game 3.

Today's game is at 3 p.m. at Buford.

Kyler Berrett lifted the Wolves (21-11) with three hits in the nightcap, including two doubles, a grand slam and six RBIs to pace the attack. Austin Upshaw was the winning pitcher, tossing 5 innings, allowing seven hits and striking out three.

Game Two became a must win for the Wolves after they booted away the first game, falling 8-6 in nine innings while committing five errors.

Buford scored on an unearned run in the first and Pierce County, the Region 2-AA runner-up, tied the game with an unearned run of their own in the top of the third.

The Wolves reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the inning on a home run by Shawn Reynolds. The Wolves extended their lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth when Mikey Bart singled, advanced on a passed ball and was driven in on a double by Sam Clay. Clay was then brought in on a single by Brian Malone.

The Bears scored twice in the top of the fifth when an error cut the Buford lead to 4-3. Pierce County then grabbed the lead when Drew Taylor hit a three-run homer to give the Bears a 6-4 lead inthe top of the sixth. The three runs in this inning were the only earned runs of the game for Pierce County. The other five were via Buford errors.

Buford closed to 6-5 in the bottom of the sixth on a lead-off home run by Clay. In the bottom of the seventh, Berrett singled to open the inning and was sacrificed to second by Josh Bryan. Bart reached first on catcher's interference and Clay came up big, again, as he singled home the tying run.

Both teams failed to score in the eighth but the Bears broke through in the ninth, again benefiting from a Buford error.

Pierce County's Wil Lowman led off with a grounder to first, but the throw to the bag was dropped. After a fly out, the Bears executed a hit-and-run play where Cole Dowling's groundball softly to third. With Lowman running, as the out was recorded at first, the Wolves could not retreat in time to take the return thrown and Lowman ended up on third. Vince Elliott singled in what turned out to be the game-winning run and then scored himself when Tim Huff singled after him.

Buford could not mount a rally in the bottom of the ninth.

Game 2 was scoreless until the top of the third when Bart singled, Reynolds walked and Upshaw was hit by a pitch. Berrett stepped up to the plate and delivered a shot to left center field which cleared the fence with room to spare and put the Wolves up 4-0.

In contrast to Game 1, Game 2 saw the Bears commit five errors while Buford had none. The Wolves added four more runs in the top of the fourth thanks in part ot one of the Pierce County miscues. Leading 8-0, Buford did allow the Bears to score twice in the bottom of the fourth on singles by Rod Kenedy and Codi Dixon, but that was as much damage as they would do against Upshaw.

Buford salted away the game with six runs in the top of the sixth and the visitors from the Waycross area went back to their hotel rooms to get ready for the decisive Game 3 today.