BUFORD -- There's reloading, and then there's the ridiculous.
After winning six straight state softball titles, the odds would say that eventually the talent, or luck, or both, would run out. But in the case of Buford, the best may still be yet to come.
The Lady Wolves return all nine starters from a year ago, including their top two pitchers, and an unscientific poll of area coaches say they are a lock to win Region 7-AAA and a strong favorite to bring home an unprecedented seventh straight title in October.
"They are loaded and we're probably playing for second place," said Dawson County coach Jim Pruett last week, as they prepared for their season-opener in the Lanier Pointe Invitational. "I didn't think they could get much better, but they will be."
The Lady Tigers were the only 7-AAA team to knock off Buford in the regular season in 2012 and won the regular season title.
Buford coach Tony Wolfe admitted they are probably the preseason favorite in both the region and state this time around. But he also said every year is different and brings new challenges.
"No two teams are alike and every team has challenges. It's how you handle adversity that defines your season," Wolfe said. "If we stay healthy, I would agree that we're probably the team to beat. But we also know that we're going to see everyone's best pitcher and get their best game. Hopefully we can rise to the challenge."
The Lady Wolves will be led by junior pitchers Bria Bush -- a Tennessee commit -- and Tessa Daniels -- a Florida State commit. Daniels is back to full strength after seeing minimal action in the circle last year recovering from a hamstring injury.
They also return a solid lineup led by Daniels, who will play first when not pitching, junior second baseman Jordan Deep -- a Georgia Tech commit -- senior centerfielder Niki Cook, who had 45 stolen bases in 2012, and junior rightfielder Remi Hasty, a Georgia State commit.
Wolfe said he is looking forward to seeing how his talented group handles what he considers the toughest schedule in the state in any classification.
The Lady Wolves open their season Wednesday in the Hawk/Bulldog Invitational against Class AAAAAA Mill Creek, which advanced to Columbus last year, and then take on defending Class AAAAAA state champion Archer in the second game. They also have Class AAAAAA playoff teams North Gwinnett, Brookwood and South Forsyth and Class AAAAA playoff team Greenbrier as well as Class AAAA playoff team Walnut Grove in the opening weeks of the season.
Then there's 7-AAA, which was solid with Fannin County, Dawson County, and Banks County last season. East Hall, West Hall, and White County should be improved in 2013.
"Our goal was to put together the toughest schedule in Georgia and if we don't, it's certainly one of the toughest," Wolfe said. "We want to be ready for the region and hopefully the state tournament and I feel the best way to do that is to play the best teams.
"Our goal for the Hawk/Bulldog tournament is to try and win it with this group. But it's going to be tough. There are no easy games."
Wolfe said the early part of the season will be trying to fit the right pieces in the right slots.
"These girls play a lot of travel ball and really haven't played much together so we have to make sure everyone is in their best position," he said. "I like our team and I think we have good depth. I'll know a little more after the first few games and where we will need to improve."
The rest of Region 7-AAA is hoping it takes them just a little bit longer than a few games to find out.