Staff Photo: John Bohn Wesleyan third baseman Lauren Daniel (00) throws out Vidaila base runner Brittany Cabrol at first base during the second inning of Thursday's game. Wesleyan defeated Vidalia, 8 to 3, to advance in the Class AA GHSA state championship softball tournament in Columbus Thursday.
COLUMBUS -- It's always easier to play from the winner's bracket in a double-elimination tournament than to have to fight through the elimination bracket.
And both Buford and Wesleyan made life much easier for themselves during Thursday's opening rounds of their respective classification's state softball tournament at the South Commons Softball Complex.
Buford, winners of the last five titles in Class AA, took the high road in Class AAA Thursday, getting a pair of two-run, first-inning rallies and dominant pitching from Bria Bush to claim wins of 7-1 over Jackson and 4-0 over Chapel Hill.
Wesleyan, meanwhile, erupted for six runs in the final two innings of its opener to take an 8-3 win over Vidalia, and then scored four times in the first of the nightcap against Heard County before cruising to a 9-3 victory.
Both sets of Wolves are now guaranteed to be around for championship Saturday, and could really put themselves in the driver's seat with wins in their respective winner's bracket games today at 5 p.m. -- Buford (30-3) against Central-Carrollton and Wesleyan (29-9) against Dade County.
"We talked about how important this second game was (Thursday) night," Buford coach Tony Wolfe said. "It puts you into Saturday. You get on the bus hoping you can at least get to Saturday and have a shot at it. We're just excited that we were able to accomplish that."
The Wolves struck early in both games, with Tessa Daniels belting a two-run home run during a four-run bottom of first in the opener and Drew Puckett driving in two more in the first inning of the nightcap with a triple.
They then turned matters over to Bush (20-2), who was lights out, tossing 12 innings on the day and giving up just three hits and one earned runs with 22 strikeouts.
Daniels finished the day 3-for-6 with three RBIs, while Niki Cook was 4-for-7 with an RBI and Remington Hasty drove in a pair of runs.
Wesleyan waited a little longer to get started, with Lillie Baker opening the floodgates in the bottom of the sixth in a 2-2 game in the opener against Vidalia with a two-out, two-run single to put the Wolves in front for good.
Katie Frerking and CaraMia Tsirigos each added a homer in the seventh to pad the lead and put the game away.
The late rally also set the tone for the opening of Game 2 against Heard County as Wesleyan put up a four-spot in the top of the first.
"When they were about to get that first win, they were able to settle down," Wesleyan coach Nichole Dixon said. "The game takes care of itself. It's a game of being loose. I think that really helps everybody."
Baker had a huge day for the Wolves, going 3-for-7 with three RBIs, while Frerking was 5-for-7 with the homer and an RBI, Victoria DiStasi was 4-for-7 with three RBIs.
Dacia Jones was 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI against Heard County and got the win in the circle with four strong innings that included five strikeouts, while Amanda DeLaPerriere also gave the Wolves strong pitching, tossing a complete game in the opener with four strikeouts on just four hits and three earned runs and throwing three shutout innings worth four strikeouts to pick up the save against Heard County.