Friday September 22nd, 2017 6:37PM

SEVENTH HEAVEN: Walters, Bush lead Buford to 7th straight title

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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COLUMBUS -- Buford girls softball coach Tony Wolfe felt his current squad was the most balanced team he has ever had.

They proved it Saturday in the Class AAA state finals against Central-Carroll.

Junior pitcher Bria Bush scattered three hits and worked around three errors while the offense got the lead playing small ball and then blew the game open with two home runs en route to a 4-0 win to capture their seventh consecutive state title at the Olympic Softball Complex.

"This team can beat you in a lot of ways and I think today they showed that," Wolfe said. "Bria pitched well and we got runs in a variety of ways. I couldn't be more proud and excited for a group of girls than this bunch. They've worked hard for this."

Bush dominated the Lady Lions until a pair of errors helped bring the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning. Only one of the three Central-Carroll hits actually left the infield.

"Bria pitched very well. She got out of a couple of jams where the defense let her down some but she showed again why she is one of the best pitchers in the state," Wolfe said.

While Bush was holding off the Lady Lions offense, senior Morgan Walters, a Missouri commit, continued her assault of opposing pitchers. Walters would smack a second inning home run to give Buford a two-run cushion, her sixth home run during the playoffs.

"I just felt like it was my time as a senior to step up and I just tried to do that every game in the playoffs," Walters said. "This feels great to go out as a state champion."

Wolfe could only shake his head about Walters' playoff performance.

"She was a one-person wrecking crew in the playoffs," he said. "She had big hits in every game it seemed like. She showed that she is one of the best offensive players in the state."

While the team was hoisting yet another title trophy, Wolfe was asked if it ever gets old.

"Every year is a new group and every team is different. It never gets old because you want to help them achieve their goals just like the other teams," he said. "The girls every year talk about keeping the streak going and that's what we're trying to do."

It figured to be a pitcher's duel with Bush and Central's Emily Williams. The Lady Wolves had narrowly beat Williams in the opening game of the Elite 8 -- a 3-2 win -- and Williams had allowed just four total runs in four games in Columbus.

Buford would play small-ball in the beginning. Niki Cook led off the game with a single, moved to second on a throwing error by the Central-Carroll catcher, stole third, and then scored on a RBI ground out by Jordan Deep for a quick 1-0 lead.

The Lady Lions' Maddie Dodson singled off the glove of Bush in the bottom of the first but was left stranded.

The Lady Wolves would then play long-ball in the second. Walters belted her 17th home run of the season, a solo shot to lead off the inning to give Buford a 2-0 lead.

"I just came up trying to get on base and I got a good swing on it. I was surprised that it went out, though," Walters said.

In the third inning Baylee Sexton was plunked by Williams to start the inning but would be erased at second on a line out to shortstop to end the inning.

Williams would settle down retiring eight of the next 10 batters while Bush would retire 10 in a row through the fifth inning.

The Lady Wolves would add on in the top of the sixth in an unusual manner. Remington Hasty cranked a ball to deep left field that Central-Carroll's Rebekah Smith caught but dropped when she crashed through the outfield wall resulting in a home run to give Buford a 3-0 lead.

The Lady Lions next chance to score came in the bottom of the sixth when Aubrey Bennett reached on an error. She moved to second on a ground out but was left stranded.

Buford added another insurance run in the top of the seventh when Drew Puckett singled to start the inning and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Cook.

The Lady Lions did not quit, however. They would load the bases with two outs on a single sandwiched between a pair of Buford errors bringing the tying run to the plate. But Bush got Cassie Griffin to pop up to second base to seal the title.

"We knew they could come back and they did. I just told them stay poised and stay calm. Bria made a nice pitch to get out of it," Wolfe said.

NOTES: The 4-0 score was identical to the score from last year when the Lady Wolves beat Ringgold in the title game. ... Buford has not faced an elimination game in Columbus since 2011 when they rallied with two wins over Pike County on the final day. ... Central-Carroll moved into the championship round with a 4-0 win over Oconee County in the third-place game earlier in the day.
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