Heddinger, Hampton lead Buford to first AA title in 34 years

Georgia Tech signee Josh Heddinger was masterful in his final appearance in a Buford uniform, allowing just two hits while striking out 10 in a complete-game 5-1 win over Pike County.

That gave the Wolves (31-4) their first baseball state title since 1977.

The outcome elevated a successful baseball program to the championship level of Buford’s other programs. This school year, the Wolves have won four state titles, with baseball now joining football, softball and girls basketball.

In 15 seasons at Buford, baseball coach Tony Wolfe has won 282 games, guided the Wolves to the state playoffs 10 times and won five region titles. On Monday, he received his first state championship.

“I’ve been so blessed to have won so many games and championships here,” Wolfe said. “But it’s not about me. It’s about these kids, these nine seniors. We are a senior-driven team. This group has been through everything.

“And this may be the best game Josh has ever pitched. He’s had some great ones. But this one might be the best.”

After giving up a solo second-inning homer to Pirates slugger and Columbus State signee Chris Long -- his third homer of the three-game series --  Heddinger, or “Head” to his teammates, allowed just three more base runners on a two walks and a single. He mixed a sizzling fastball with a biting curve, varying speeds on the latter and spotting both pitches effectively.

“It was unreal the way I threw,” Heddinger said, between hugs from teammates, family and friends. “I didn’t miss hardly any of my spots. My arm felt great, my legs felt great. Just awesome.”

But Heddinger was quick to give the credit to fellow senior Adam Hampton, who had three runs batted in, including the eventual game-winner on a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth inning. Then in the bottom of the sixth, Hampton provided Heddinger with a bigger cushion when he punched an opposite-field, two-run homer over the 320-foot mark in left field to give Buford a 4-1 lead.

For Pike County fans, it was the unkindest cut of all. Hampton had fired up the Pirates crowd on Saturday night when he barked at them after scoring a run in the Wolves’ 14-4 blowout win in Game 2, following Pike's 10-3 victory in Game 1.

“It started in the outfield with [Pike County fans] saying little things to me out there,” said the center fielder, who will play at LaGrange College next spring. “We were going back and forth at each other pretty good, saying things here and there.

“I’m an emotional guy. I knew I had to do something big today.”

When he crossed home plate after his home run, after celebrating with his teammates, Hampton celebrated with his own fans, imploring them to make even more noise.

“I wanted to focus more on getting our fans fired up today,” Hampton said. “I decided to let [Pike County fans] fuel me. After I came into the dugout, I asked Josh if he had three more outs in him. He said he did.”

Pike coach Don Hanson said he was proud of the way his players battled, including starting pitcher Lance Shelton, who had won decisive Game 3s in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds for the Pirates (31-8). For much of Monday’s game, Shelton went pitch for pitch with Heddinger.

“I thought Lance pitched a pretty good game,” Hanson said of Shelton, who has signed with Andrew College in Cuthbert.