BUFORD — The “glass half full” answer was easy to understand from Tony Wolfe.
The longtime Buford baseball coach had just watched his playoff-inexperienced Wolves pound out an 18-8 win over North Springs Saturday in a winner-take-all Game 3 of their Class AAAAA opening round series.
However, he also watched as they wasted two chances to close out the game early with the 10-run Mercy Rule, including a key error on what would have been the series-cinching out that opened the door to a four-run inning to keep the game alive.
“Well, we’re proud to be advancing but it was a frustrating series the whole way. We left a ton of guys on base, we were sloppy defensively. We will have to play better if want to have any chance of advancing in the next round,” Wolfe said afterwards.
Buford (19-13) moves on to play Region 2-AAAAA champion Wayne County in a best-of-three series that will begin on Thursday in Jesup in south Georgia.
Noah Ledford and Nathan Haines combined for six hits and five RBI to lead a 17-hit Buford attack. Akira Mitchell, Garrison Price, Griffin Price, and Christian Griffin all had two hits for the Wolves.
Sophomore lefty Sean Adams, making the biggest start of his young career, kept the Spartans off-balance early on while the offense chipped away against North Springs starter Benny Moses, who was making his first-ever playoff start as well.
Adams yielded just one hit through the first two innings and was able to relax when the offense scored one in the first, two in the second, and then exploded for seven in the third for a 10-0 lead. Adams gave up an unearned run in the third and another run in the fourth before being just one pitch from sealing an impressive 14-2 win after the offense added three in the fifth.
But a dropped fly ball on the what would have been the final out gave North Springs new life allowing two runs to score and then a two-run double by the Spartans’ Beau Foster chased Adams from being able to claim the complete-game victory.
He went 4 2/3 innings scattering eight hits and just one of the six runs he would be charged with was earned.
“I was very pleased with the poise that (Sean) showed out there, especially being a young guy,” Wolfe said. “He deserved a better finish. The defense let him down and that is something we’re going to have to improve on.”
The current Wolves had little to no playoff experience on the roster coming into the series so finding a way to advance was important, Wolfe said.
“I hope they learned some things with this being their first series,” he said. “Hopefully we can take that into the next round and be a little better than we were in this one.”
Despite scoring three runs, the Wolves also stranded four base runners in the first two innings. They blew the game open in the third sending 11 batters to the plate.
Haines walked and then courtesy-runner K.J. Johnson moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Mitchell’s double to left. After a sacrifice bunt by Grant James, Griffin pushed it to 6-0 with a two-run single and Ledford stroked his third hit of the game knocking in Griffin and knocking out Moses. Haines followed with a RBI single and two more runs scored on wild pitches to make it 10-0.
Moses lasted just 2 2/3 innings surrendering nine runs on seven hits and walking six.
North Springs finally broke through the in bottom of the third getting an unearned run when Jeffrey Taylor drove in Moses, who reached on an error, to cut it to 10-1.
Buford added a run in the fourth but North Springs matched that with a run in the bottom of the inning to make 11-2. Buford extended the lead to 14-2 with three more runs in the fifth.
Adams then got within one out of the complete-game before the Wolves left fielder dropped the final out. The Spartans took advantage as two runs scored on the play and then a two-run double from Beau Foster pulled them within 14-6.
Garrett Glover came on to get the final out of the fifth for Buford. He closed out the final 2 1/3 innings allowing two runs on four hits and struck out three.
Buford again could have ended it early in the sixth scoring three times for a 17-6 lead. But North Springs, again down to its final out, got three straight hits with two outs and plated two runs to stay alive heading to the seventh down 17-8.