BUFORD — Head coach Stuart Chester walked out of Gerald McQuaig Field after Buford’s second-round playoff sweep of West Forsyth worn out.

The two teams combined for 34 runs over two games, including a 16-9 shootout Wolves win in the opener, and the twin bill took over five hours to complete.

“It was a long day,” Chester said. “You’ve got that right.”

Buford shut the door on the aforementioned shootout, then finished with a 9-0 victory against the 7A foe in the GHSA state playoffs. The Wolves will face the winner of the series between Brookwood and Hillgrove, which has yet to be determined, Monday at home.

On an afternoon where staff ace and Georgia pledge Nate Taylor (4 1/3 innings, six earned runs) had a rare appearance where he lacked crispness and command of his pitches to open the doubleheader, Buford had many other players rise to the occasion.

Here are three standouts — including a pair of underclassmen who spent time on the junior varsity level — who powered Buford into the quarterfinals.

Courtesy of Natasha Zagrodnik

Caleb Griffin

The sophomore designated hitter couldn’t have dreamt of his sudden rise.

Caleb Griffin played the entire junior varsity season, then Chester and the Buford coaching staff called him up after seeing developments in his swing. On the biggest stage, Griffin has produced the best offensive stretch of his young career.

Griffin came to Gerald McQuaig Field Wednesday with a vengeance. He led Buford in the opener with a 3-for-3 performance with a walk and two RBI. He had a hit and two more RBI in four at-bats to close the series

“We pulled him up, and he’s been on fire,” Chester said. “He’s one of the hottest bats we’ve got right now, and that speaks to his character and work ethic. He is a big factor.”

Buford made the decision to start Griffin at the junior varsity level to receive a full complement of at-bats rather than only having opportunities here-and-there on varsity. Chester, however, frequently shuffles his lineup and Griffin cashed in when given the opportunity.

Griffin has gone 8-of-13 (.615) in the playoffs. He’s now a dependable piece for the Wolves on their potential run toward a state championship.

“His mental approach, accepting his role and being a selfless player put him in this situation,” Chester said. “It’s a shot in the arm for us.”

Kyle Krause

Buford doesn’t have the ideal situation of having two solidified starting pitchers to take the mound in a doubleheader. In some ways, it’s a luxury, because Chester can mix-and-match with four starters in a playoff series.

Krause, another sophomore, didn’t start in the opening-round series win over Kennesaw Mountain. He served as one of the freshest options, and dominated to seal the doubleheader against West Forsyth.

Krause threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits, a walk and striking out six batters. In Krause’s last 12 2/3 innings, he has allowed two runs and struck out 12.

“He has progressively gotten better and better all year long,” Chester said. “He located the ball where he wanted to locate, commanded two pitches and kept them off stride. He threw strikes and let the defense play. His location and competitiveness was second-to-none.”

Damian Brown

Senior Damian Brown is Buford’s do-it-all pitcher.

“He can start. He can relieve,” Chester said. “He wants on the mound.”

Brown has appeared in each of Buford’s four postseason games. On Wednesday against West Forsyth, he posted some of his best work through the 2024 season.

Brown recorded 3 1/3 innings and did not allow a hit. He struck out seven of 10 batters faced.

Brown, for the first time this season, did it at the plate, too. He hit a bases-clearing double in the first game of the doubleheader for three RBI. It marked the first hit of his career.

“He’s always commanding. His arm is a very live arm. It’s very fluid and very easy,” Chester said. “His mechanics are very good, and his talent, arm and location make for a very good situation. He can come in certain situations, get you out of it and keep you there.”

FEATURED PHOTO: Courtesy of David McGregor

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