BUFORD — After a brutal opening schedule and a 3-6 record, Buford baseball coach Tony Wolfe never faltered from the belief that his inexperienced Wolves would eventually turn things around.
After a 16-1, three-inning Mercy Rule victory over equally-inexperienced Johnson Friday at McQuaig Field, Wolfe is starting to see the signs he has been looking for.
Senior Tyler Perkins fanned six and yielded one hit and no earned runs on the mound. Junior second baseman Griffin Price highlighted a 10-hit attack with a three-run home run and four total RBI.
It was the sixth win in the last seven games for Buford (9-7, 2-0 Region 8-AAAAA).
Buford graduated four players from last season’s Class AAAA state runner-up team that moved on to play Division I this season and another, Brandon Marsh, was drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Angels.
“We have a lot of inexperience on the field but they’re getting better,” Wolfe said. “We had a very tough beginning but we’ve been playing a lot better the last couple of weeks. Offensively we’re coming around and our defense has improved. Getting much more consistent, which is what we’re trying to be every game.”
Johnson, which has just three seniors of its own, took the early lead in the top of the first, however. Payden Grizzle singled to lead off, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored when he stole third and came home on a throwing error by the catcher to jump ahead 1-0. The Knights had a chance for a big inning getting runners to first and second with two outs but Perkins fanned Noah Warren to get out of the jam. Perkins struck out the side in the inning.
Buford answered right back in a big way in the bottom of the inning sending 14 batters to the plate in a 10-run inning against Grizzle.
Garrett Price beat out an infield single to start things off and stole second. He moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a RBI groundout by Griffin Price to make it a 1-1 game. Griffin Price scored on a RBI single to right by Noah Ledford, who later scored on Grizzle’s third wild pitch of the inning for a 3-1 advantage. Nathan Haines, Will Westmoreland, and Tanner Alexander all walked and scored on two more wild pitches as they batted around. Garrett Price reached again on a second infield hit and Griffin Price highlighted it with a towering three-run shot to left. Ledford added an RBI double two batters later for a 10-1 lead.
Grizzle had to leave with two outs in the first after experiencing some tightness in his arm but Johnson coach Jared Hodge said it was a precaution. Freshman Avery Goss relieved Grizzle and went two innings allowing seven runs, only four earned, on six hits.
After Perkins got the Knights in order in the second, the Wolves added three more in the bottom of the inning. Alexander knocked in Westmoreland and then he and Garrett Price scored on an error to push the lead to 13-1.
Buford closed out the game in the bottom of the third with three more runs, capped by a RBI double from Garrett Price bringing home Grant James to invoke the Mercy Rule.
Wolfe said some eary-season frustrations have helped his group work on the needed little detals.
"We lost four games in the final at bat early in the season and we talked about doing the little things better and how important that is," Wolfe said. "I like the way they're working hard. I feel like things are headed in the right direction."
Buford is off until next Friday when it will travel to Clarke Central in another Region 8-AAAAA battle.
Johnson (2-11, 0-2) next will play host to Flowery Branch on Monday in 8-AAAAA action.