Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Buford Jazmin Hawkins (3) slides into second base head first against Ringgold during the Class AAA GHSA State Championship softball game at the South Commons Softball Complex in Columbus on Saturday. Buford defeated Ringgold 4-0 to become the Class AAA state champions.
COLUMBUS -- Unprecedented.
That's just about the only word left to describe the Buford Wolves' run of state softball titles, which grew to six straight after a 4-0 win over Ringgold on Saturday in the championship game of the Class AAA state tournament.
"What really makes this team so special is that we only start two seniors and the rest are sophomores and freshmen," Buford head coach Tony Wolfe said. "They're so excellent for a young team and I'm so proud of what they've done this season."
Buford (32-3) got off to its usual fast start by scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning to take an early 1-0 lead on Ringgold (32-8), which had won four straight elimination games -- including three Friday -- to advance to the championship game.
"We believe in starting fast, putting pressure on the other team, defense and pitching," said Wolfe, whose team won five straight Class AA titles before moving up a classification this year. "Those are the things that got us here. Our kids are solid in every way."
The score stayed 1-0 until the bottom of the third, when sophomore Jordan Deep smashed a two-run homer to make it 3-0 and give the Wolves some much-needed breathing room.
"I'd been struggling at the plate (at the state tournament)," said Deep, who missed a part of this season with a hamstring injury. "I knew it was my time to step up and make it happen. We really needed those extra runs. That gave us some leeway to make some more things happen."
Armed with a three-run lead, sophomore Bria Bush rolled right along in the circle for Buford, only allowing three hits and striking out six while walking none.
"I wasn't as strong as I usually am, but I've pitched a lot of games this week," said Bush, who pitched for the Wolves in all four games in the state tournament. "I told my teammates that I might not pitch well, but that they were going to get the best bad game I had. I knew I just had to put the ball in the strike zone and let my defense back me up."
Buford maintained its 3-0 advantage until the bottom of the sixth, when Noah Sudderth launched a solo homer of her own, giving the Wolves a 4-0 lead and closing out the scoring.
"I like to tell people defense wins championships," said Deep, one of five sophomores in the Buford lineup. "It really does. (Bush) did just an amazing job in the circle for us. We're known for our defense and that's how we did it."
Buford allowed one run in its four victories in Columbus, while scoring 22 times. The Wolves had 13 shutouts in 32 victories and allowed one run or less 22 times in 35 games.
Wolfe said it's that ability to keep teams off the scoreboard, along with its relative youth, that defined the championship run.
"A lot of people talk about this program and the first thing they look at is the streak," Wolfe said. "But this is about this year's team and I'm very excited and proud of them. For us to have so many younger players in different positions and see them come through when we needed it most is awesome."