Buford, Georgia — just one hour outside of Atlanta— claims perhaps the most dominant high school softball team in the country.
And one of the most dominant players from that team is now a Vol.
Tennessee's softball team was able to lure decorated pitcher and Buford High School alum Bria Bush to Knoxville, where she has an opportunity to immediately bolster the Vols' pitching staff.
“She’s very competitive,” Tennessee pitching coach Marty McDaniel said, “I guess if you win four state championships you’re gonna be competitive.”
Over her four state-title winning seasons, Bush won 71 of her 79 starts, posted a career ERA of .90 and recorded a Buford-record 29 shutouts. Bush credits her success to her solid work ethic. If it is not a game day, she is practicing her craft.
Thanks to her production and work ethic, Bush has already worked her way up the ranks as one of the Vols four primary pitchers.
“She’s one of our top four pitchers,” McDaniel said, “She complements the pitchers.”
Bush has been praised not for her pitching power, but for her precise location as well as her repertoire of pitches. When asked what Bush’s single best pitch was, McDaniel could not name one but rather praised Bush’s curveball, screwball and changeup.
Proving that she offers more than just her arm, Bush showed her coaches she is a student of the game.
“She knows hitters. She understands her body when she throws,” McDaniel said. “When she does things wrong she knows.”
Despite the consistent success and immense praise from former and current coaches, Bush remains down to Earth and refuses to simply play for herself.
When she was in high school, she played for the seniors, wanting to give them one more championship before they graduated.
“I’ve always been one to pick other things to play for,” Bush said. “ I never want to think I’m better than I am, because you never know what could happen.”
Bush is also humbled by representing the University of Tennessee, which became her dream school after she was mesmerized by the bright orange UT athletes wore on their jerseys.
“I was really little. I was like eight years old, and I was like ‘wow, those are pretty colors,” Bush said, “… and it kind of became one of my dreams to play here.”
After her senior year at Buford commenced, the recruiting process led Bush to decide between Tennessee and Auburn. The decision was simple.
“It was my dream school, and it kind of had the family atmosphere that Buford had … it felt like home.” Bush said.
With the season two weeks away, Bush finds herself as a freshman pitcher on a roster featuring 10 additional freshmen.
But this is Tennessee, where expectations are always high for softball. This year is no different, as Tennessee begins the season ranked No. 9 in the USA softball preseason poll.
“I want us to go out there and play our hardest and not worry about half the team being freshmen,” Bush said. “Being a freshman is just a title … I don’t want it to be a growing year. I want to play to win.”
If Bush wants to play to win, she will have to do it solely on the mound after a dramatic incident as a batter during her junior season at Buford.
“I was pitching a game … I had struck out the first nine batters,” Bush said. “They let me hit in that game. The pitcher hit me, and it was so obvious … it wasn’t close to anyone.”
The Vols have used pitchers as prominent bats in the lineup in the past, but Bush will not be one of those players.
“Ralph (Weekly) won’t even give me a bat,” Bush said.
He probably will not object letting her in the circle.