MURFREESBORO, Tenn.—How sneaky of Baylor to break out a secret weapon in the state softball championship game.
The Lady Red Raiders played GPS on Saturday morning for the fifth time this season, but the TSSAA Division II-AA final at Starplex field No. 3 was the first time the Bruisers had faced pitcher Sarah Moore.
Moore’s variety of speeds and locations stymied the opposition all day, and Baylor earned its sixth title in program history by defeating GPS 3-0. It was the third Baylor girls’ team championship of this Spring Fling, following tennis and track.
Baylor (33-8) won the two regular-season softball meetings with the Bruisers and beat them 5-2 in the winners-bracket final at the Spring Fling on Thursday. GPS (18-15) won 6-5 on Friday in the first game of the final, forcing the extra championship game in the double-elimination format.
Coach Kelli Smith, who had pitched junior Kaitie Sims throughout the state tournament, as well as each previous time the Lady Raiders played GPS, said she finalized her decision to go with Moore earlier in the morning.
“I got about 30 minutes of sleep,” Smith said. “I thought about it all night. Sarah is such a gamer. She plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played, whether she’s at shortstop or in the pitcher’s circle. I handed her the ball today and she said, ‘OK, Coach.’”
Moore worked around three walks in the second inning but did not give up a hit until Kelby Crownover singled with one out in the fifth. The sophomore right-hander ended up with a three-hitter with four walks, and two of her four strikeouts were against a couple of the Bruisers’ batting leaders with two on base in the fifth.
“They’d seen Kaitie so many times, I guess that’s why she decided to go with me,” said Moore, who ended the year with a 12-0 pitching record. “I mixed all of my pitches up. We didn’t have a set order. I had a good day.”
Catcher Cassi Pickett agreed.
“We threw a lot of changeups and gave them a little taste of their own medicine,” Pickett said. “That’s what we’ve been struggling with. This was one of her best games. She kept them off balance.”
Lauren Lewis had a two-out, two-run single in the first inning before Moore threw her first pitch. Braleigh Angel was 2-for-4, stole two bases and scored her second run of the game in the fifth on Pickett’s sacrifice fly.
The Bruisers’ Corey Swafford, who had earned the pitching victory in the first game of the final, limited Baylor to eight singles. She walked two and hit one.
“Holding them to three runs is a feat in itself,” GPS coach Susan Crownover said.
With its offense down a little in the tournament, Baylor found other ways to win.
“You think when you get to the state tournament you’re going to see better pitching and better defense,” Smith said. “You think the run totals are not going to be that much. Our offense has been explosive all year, but every day in practice we emphasize defense wins ballgames.”
The Lady Raiders snapped the Bruisers’ string of winning four consecutive state championships. They also did not have a senior this season.
GPS’s only senior, Mary Anna Caldwell, pinch ran and scored the winning run against the Lady Raiders in the bottom of the seventh Friday. The Bruisers had the tying run at bat when Saturday’s game ended.
“There wasn’t any quit in them,” Coach Crownover said of her players. “These kids are young and they learned how to fight this week. You’ve got to get here once or twice first. Now that we got that experience, we’ll take that with us into next year.”
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.