The question surrounding Tuesday's Division II-AA East/Region season finale for the Baylor and GPS softball teams wasn't "How many?" It was "How far?"
The teams ended up with 12 hits apiece, but five of Baylor's sailed out of the park and the Lady Red Raiders truly powered their way to an 11-4 come-from-behind victory.
By winning, Baylor (35-5, 8-0) secures the No. 1 seeding from the region for the classification's state playoffs.
"We set goals, and being the one seed and region champion is definitely a goal," Baylor coach Kelli Smith said.
GPS coach Susan Crownover said the Bruisers (21-11, 6-2) will be second-seeded because each of the region's midstate teams has at least three conference losses. Baylor and GPS will receive byes next weekend when the Division II playoffs start, and both will host a best-of-three series the following weekend.
The Bruisers scored twice in the first inning, and starter Madi Stanley was cruising through four innings with a three-hit shutout. They tacked on two in the top of the fifth, and then a one-out error in the bottom of the inning preceded a blowup.
In succession, Noelle Winkles, Cassi Pickett and Lauren Lewis hit home runs, and that quickly the game was tied and Crownover made a pitching change.
"Madi did a really good job," Crownover said. "She was hitting a lot of good spots and we made some big plays behind her defensively. It's just tough to keep doing it."
GPS had a chance to retake the lead in the sixth, getting consecutive two-out singles from Taylor Battle, Bailey Davenport and Madison Boyd. But Winkles from center field launched a throw to Pickett at the plate to cut down the potential run.
Baylor's seven-run bottom of the inning included three-run homers by Pickett and Kelsie Clark.
"Any time you make a big defensive play, especially to end an inning, I remind them that the offense has got to feed off that play," Smith said.
Davenport ended up 3-for-3 and her fifth-inning double was the Bruisers' only extra-base hit. Eight players in the game ended up with two hits each.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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