Buford’s second baseman Jordan Deep (12) dives to field a ball hit by a Central Carrollton batter during the Class AAA State Softball Championship at the South Commons Softball Complex in Columbus Saturday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
COLUMBUS — Having struggled against Central-Carrollton in their opening game of the Class AAA State Softball Tournament, Buford knew that if it was to bring home another state championship, it would have to earn it.
That’s exactly what the Wolves did, as the power of Morgan Walters and Remington Hasty, combined with the strong pitching of Bria Bush helped them subdue the Lions 4-0 in Saturday’s title game at the South Commons Softball Complex.
Walters and Hasty each hit solo home runs, while Bush (18-1) threw a complete-game, four-hit shutout as Buford (37-1) captured its seventh consecutive state title.
“Every year, it’s a new group of kids,” said Buford coach Tony Wolfe, who has guided the Wolves to a championship every season since taking over in 2007. “We’re so happy for them to getting to experience it. We’re also so happy for our program and for our community to experience it. They enjoy the streak, and we’re happy we were able to continue it for them.”
The Wolves were able to continue by scoring early, and then turning to Bush to keep pesky Central-Carrollton, which had been tough in falling just 3-2 to Buford in the opening round Thursday, at arm’s length.
They did it first with speed, as Niki Cook singled, advanced to second on an error, stole third and eventually came home on Jordan Deep’s RBI ground out to give Buford a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
Walters then added to the lead by belting a solo homer — her 17th of the season and fourth of the tournament — to give Bush and the Wolves a little breathing room.
“This weekend, since it was the end of my high school career, I wanted to finish on a strong note,” Walters said. “Just having that mentality pushed me to do even better.
“We just wanted to pick up the momentum and get some energy going. Everybody really comes together on things like that.”
And Bush made sure Central-Carrollton had a hard time creating any momentum.
The senior right-hander didn’t have a strikeout for the first time in her four tournament appearances, but had her off-speed pitches going to induce the Lions (31-7) into 10 ground-ball outs.
“My change-up was working (Saturday), unlike (Friday)” said Bush, who ran her record to 4-0 for the tournament. “So, that was a big help. And you know, I had my team to support me, and I knew that I could pitch and my defense would be behind me.
“It definitely helps me relax (to have an early lead), but the adrenaline is still going because anyone can come back at any time.”
The Wolves gave Bush an even bigger cushion on Hasty’s solo homer in the top of the sixth, followed by Cook’s sacrifice fly to left in the top of the seventh, to take a seemingly-comfortable 4-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
But as it demonstrated all weekend, Central-Carrollton still had some fight left in it.
Cade North and Rebekah Smith hit back-to-back singles with one out in the inning, and when Jordyn Scott reached on an error one out later, the Lions suddenly brought the tying run to the plate.
“We (just told them) to stay poised and stay calm,” Wolfe said. “We felt like we had the ability to get out of that, unless we did something really not smart and hit the panic button. And our kids held their composure and Bria was amazing in the circle all day.”
And Bush had one last good pitch, getting Cassie Griffin to hit a lazy fly ball to center for the final out to clinch the title.
In addition to the contributions of Bush, Cook, Walters and Hasty, Buford also got a 2-for-3 day at the plate from Sydney Stavro, while while Drew Puckett added a double.