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Buford rallies, tops AJ, 4-3

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Lady Jackets' three-run fifth seals win

By Ernie Rowell

 

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Buford has made a name for itself this softball season with its comeback attack.

The Lady Jackets’ latest win was a prime example.

BHS, down 3-1 in the fifth inning, rallied for three runs to notch a 4-3 win over county and region rival Andrew Jackson in the Class AA Upper State championship tournament opener on Saturday.

The Lady Jackets’ win sends BHS home to face Gilbert in a winner’s bracket home game on Monday.

AJ will host region rival Central of Pageland, the regular-season Region IV-AA champion, on Monday in an elimination game.

“These Buford girls have big hearts,” Buford coach “C” Davis said. “We got down early today, but we didn’t quit.”

Buford, 22-7, opened the decisive fifth inning as Hannah Knight, with one out, singled and Carson Mehaffey followed with a hit.

“You have to give Buford credit,” AJ coach Steve Middleton said. “The bottom of their order responded with some big hits to set it up for the top of their lineup and then they came through at the plate.”

BHS’s Hannah Knight, who had two hits and scored twice with a run batted in, singled home a run to slice the AJ lead to 3-2.

BHS pitcher Carley Bailey then delivered what proved to be the game-winning hit, a two-sun single which put the Lady Jackets up, 4-3.

Bailey then responded on the mound as she blanked the Lady Vols the rest of the way.

Bailey, 17-7, hurled a five-hitter and struck out four. She allowed three runs – two earned and a walk.

Andrew Jackson, 17-14, opened strong with two runs off Bailey in the Lady Vols’ first inning.

AJ’s Kori Ballard blasted a two-run home run to give the Lady Vols a 2-0 edge.

Two innings later, AJ added a single run for a 3-0 lead.

Buford responded with a run in the fourth before tallying three runs in the fifth inning to take control of the game.

AJ pitcher Lauren Rowell, the sister of Buford’s Catie Rowell, went 6.2 innings and allowed a run and three hits. She fanned two.

Hannah Cobb, who pitched a third of an inning in the top of the fifth, took the loss. Cobb, an eighth grader, yielded three runs and four hits to drop her record to 3-2 on the season.

“It was a tough loss for us,” Middleton said. “It was a game which I felt would be close and come down to the wire.”

Hannah Knight led the Buford offense with two hits, two runs, a RBI and a stolen base.

Bailey rapped two hits, drove in a pair of runs and had a stolen base for the Lady Jackets.

Mikayla Hannah drilled a pair of hits and scored a run.

Kendall Boone had a hit, two sacrifices and drove in a run. Mehaffey had a hit and tallied a run.

Buford courtesy runner Cassidy Barton had a stolen base.

Ballard led the Lady Volunteers’ attack with her two-run home run in the first.

Summer Truesdale and Jamee Blackmon each had a hit and scored a run for the AJ girls. Chelsea Holden, Haley Faulkenberry and Claire McManus each had a hit for AJ.

Buford now faces Gilbert, which defeated Central in the opposite bracket in the Class AA Upper State championship series.

A Buford win will put the Lady Jackets in the driver’s seat. BHS, with a win over Gilbert, would be at home on Friday to face the survivor out of the losers’ bracket.

AJ will host Central, the regular-season IV-AA champion, after the Lady Eagles fell to Gilbert in the Class AA Upper State championship series opener.

The games will be played Monday.