Tuesday May 3rd, 2016 5:02AM

Baseball: Higginbotham, Wolves open 7-AAA with win over East Hall

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
RABBITTOWN -- For anyone wondering just how deep the Buford baseball team is, does the Grand Canyon ring a bell?

The Wolves pounded out a 22-3 win over East Hall Tuesday at East Hall Park in both teams' Region 7-AAA opener.

While the Wolves Jake Higginbotham showed why he is considered one of the state's top pitching prospects fanning 12 in five innings to get the win, it was the Buford bench that was on display.

Twelve different players got hits for the Wolves (3-0, 1-0 Region 7-AAA) with the the non-regulars roughing up four East Hall pitchers in an 11-run seventh inning.

"We dress 21 and we have confidence in all of them," Buford coach Tony Wolfe said. "This is just our third game so we're trying to find the right combinations and see what everyone can do. As you see, we have a lot of talented guys. I just try to get as many in a game as I can as the situation dictates."

Wolfe got every player into the game against East Hall.

Higginbotham, a junior southpaw who has verbally committed to Clemson, dominated the East Hall lineup, including striking out six straight at one point. East Hall's only hit against Higginbotham (2-0) came in the second on a bad-hop single over the shortstop's head.

"I was just trying to throw strikes," Higginbotham said. "They were timing my fastball and finally got my curveball going in the third inning. I felt like I got stronger as I went."

Meanwhile, senior catcher Joey Bart showed why he is considered one of the most feared hitters in the state.

The Georgia Tech-signee was 3-for-3 with one home run and four RBI in just five innings of work.

The Buford offense was relentless against five East Hall pitchers. The Wolves roughed up East Hall starter Jack Hagwood for eight hits and seven runs in 2 2/3-innings. Tristan Thomas didn't fare much better allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings, and Ronnie Peebles was touched for five runs in 1 2/3 innings. Matthew Gee allowed four runs, and Spencer Skelton allowed two runs in the 11-run seventh for the Wolves.

In the top of the first, Buford had a two-out rally with Bart singling, courtesy-runner Ben Wicker then stole second and scored a single by Austin Upshaw for a 1-0 lead.

East Hall's best chance against Higginbotham came in the second after Hagwood singled to lead off and then Higginbotham hit Hunter Strange to put two runners on. But Higginbotham fanned Jeremy Walls and Jesse Cooper to start his six strikeout run to get out of the inning.

The Wolves added three runs in the second, highlighted by a two-run double from Bart. Buford extended its lead to 7-0 in the third when Jake Mayo singled and later scored on a wild pitch. Patrick Burnette singled in Hunter Puckett chasing Hagwood, and Bart walked with the bases loaded.

Buford scored four times in the sixth. Bart led off with a screaming line drive home run to right-center for an 8-0 lead and then pinch-hitter Blayne Miller doubled in three runs with one out to make it 11-0.

East Hall (2-3, 0-1) finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth against Buford reliever Chase Hunter. Caleb Holtzclaw doubled with one out and then scored one batter later on a triple by Jacob Cash. Cash would score on a single by Garrett Bishop and Bishop scored on a bases-loaded walk to Cole Smith to cut it to 11-3.

In the seventh Buford exploded for 11 runs as the Wolves sent 15 batters to the plate for a 22-3 lead. Wicker had two hits, scored a run, and knocked in two in the inning. Miller added a RBI single in the inning for a four-RBI game off the bench. Jordan Perlotte had a three-run home to cap the inning.

-- NOTES: On Monday against Fannin County, East Hall will dedicate the concession stand at East Hall Park to Twyly Gee, who passed away last summer from cervical cancer.
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