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Friday July 31st, 2015 9:31PM

Baseball: Buford faces Game 3 do-or-die battle with Pike Co.

By Luke Story
BUFORD -- If Tuesday was any indication, Wednesday should be one for the memory books.

Buford and Pike County dueled to a draw in their series-opening doubleheader in the Class AAA quarterfinals at Gerald McQuaig Field, putting on a display of pitching that set up an intriguing, winner-take-all Game 3 showdown.

The two squads have faced each other four times in the state playoffs since 2006, and the fifth chapter of the rivalry -- not yet complete -- was written from the mound. Both teams combined for a total of 41 strikeouts, 26 from Buford pitchers.

The Wolves took a 3-1 victory in Game 1, only to watch the Pirates eek out a 1-0 win to force Game 3 at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday.

Buford will place the ball in the hands of Kevin Coulter for the winner-take-all showdown.

"We are focus on tomorrow," Wolfe said. "We are one game away from making the final four and if you would have asked us this morning, we would have taken that."


GAME 1: Buford 3, Pike County 1

"Jake [Higginbotham] was his usual special self on the mound today," Buford head coach Tony Wolfe said.

Was he ever.

Higginbotham, the junior left-hander (8-0, 0.68 ERA) controlled game 1 from the mound with a combo of untouchable pitches, much as he has done throughout the season. In a complete game effort, Higginbotham fanned 12, giving up six hits and surrendering just one run -- a run that came in the seventh inning.

Offensively, the Wolves struggled to find a consistent stride against Pike County's own strong starter in right-hander Andy Marshall (3 runs, 3 strikeouts, 5 hits in Game 1).

All of Buford's scoring came in the second inning -- an inning that resulted in three runs and four hits, all of which were singles.

Nick Wilhite sparked the mini-rally for Buford in the inning with a single up the middle. One batter later, Hunter Puckett singled to centerfield, placing runners on first and second. The bottom half of the line-up came through in the clutch, as both Patrick Burnette and Ben Wicker sent rockets to left field for RBI singles. Austin Wilhite then capped the Wolves scoring with an RBI sac fly to right field that scored Burnette from third.

Three runs in the second was all the scoring the Wolves needed to capture the victory.

The lone Pirates run came in the seventh inning courtesy a RBI ground-rule double off the bat of Will Clark, but it was the one exception to Higginbotham's domination.


Game 2: Pike County 1, Buford 0

Connor Bennett picked up where Higginbotham left off for the Wolves, tossing a complete game while striking out 14 Pike County batters and allowing just three hits in Game 2.

The one run proved enough for the Pirates, however, as they held Buford scoreless for the first time this season.

The scoreboard stayed blank for six-and-a-half innings. Unfortunately, for the Wolves a dropped ball in left field, with two outs, allowed Pike County to break the deadlock. Buford had fought back to gain two outs after putting runners on base with a hit-by-pitch and an intentional walk.
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