Buford and North Gwinnett softball teams squared up in the Wolves’ season opener and the first game in Class AAAAAAA for Buford as part of the Rumble at the Ridge tournament on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 10, at the Buford Softball Complex.

The Wolves would edge out the reigning Class AAAAAAA state champion Bulldogs 2-1 thanks to senior Emma Castorri’s solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The first batter up, North Gwinnett’s Olivia Chuck hit a single to get on base and that would be as far as the Bulldogs would get in the top of the first inning. In the bottom of the first, Madison Pickens hit a double to kick things off for Buford (1-0)

Buford shortstop Mackenzie Pickens goes to throw to first after getting North Gwinnett’s Landry Rabitsch out at second on a hit by Nadia Glass in the fifth inning. Photo by Alicia Payne.

and then stole third base. This put Pickens in position to score when Adriana Martinez hit a hard groundout to third.

Senior pitcher Olivia Duncan (1-0) struck out five of six Bulldogs over the next two innings, while Buford’s defense held strong through the fourth and fifth innings to keep North Gwinnett (2-2) scoreless.

North Gwinnett tied the game in the top of the sixth when Bella Faw scored off a double by Ella Janish. Photo by Alicia Payne.

In the top of the sixth inning, the Bulldogs came alive as Bella Faw opened the inning with a double. Another double, this time by Ella Janish, would allow Faw to score, tying the game up at 1-1.

Buford would get the game-winning point when Castorri hit a solo home run over the left field wall in the bottom of the sixth inning.

North Gwinnett tried once again to tie the game up in the top of the seventh but wasn’t able to get on base as the Bulldogs had a ground out and two strikes to end the game with Buford winning 2-1.

“It was a great start, you know, that’s a great program over there (North Gwinnett),” said Buford head coach Trent Adams. “It always is a strong program. We love playing them and getting them on the schedule.”

Buford senior Olivia Duncan gets the win for the Wolves in their season opener against North Gwinnett. Photo by Alicia Payne.

Duncan would record the win, pitching a complete seven innings. She gave up four hits and had one earned run while striking out nine and walking one.

Offensive standouts for Buford were Pickens (1-for-3, double, one run scored and one stolen base), Martinez (one RBI) and Castorri (1-for-3, solo home run, one RBI and one run scored).

“I thought our girls competed,” Adams said. “I was proud of our seniors. You know we have always said around here that you are gonna be as good as your seniors and our seniors stepped up today. Castorri with a big home run there and Liv (Olivia Duncan), the workhorse in the circle and Emma Manders had a hit as well.”

Over the summer, the Buford Softball Complex got an impressive makeover with a new press box, a massive scoreboard and stadium seating.

When asked what he thought of the improvements to the softball field, Adams said, “This summer when they were putting it in, we couldn’t wait to see it completed and the final results. We can’t thank the city and the Board of Education enough for what they do for our girls, for our student athletes. It’s amazing.”

On Saturday, Buford will continue its play in the Rumble at the Ridge tournament when the Wolves host Lambert at 9 a.m. and Lakeside at 2 p.m.

In North Gwinnett’s next game, the team will host Denmark at 11 a.m. Saturday in another non-region competition.

FEATURED PHOTO: Buford senior Emma Castorri hit the game-winning solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning in the Wolves’ season opener against North Gwinnett on Aug. 10, 2022, at the Buford Softball Complex. Photo courtesy of Buford softball.

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