MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- The ticking time bomb that is Baylor's offense went off in the sixth inning Thursday.
Sparked by a nine-run rally, the Lady Red Raiders defeated GPS 11-1 at Starplex No. 3 in the Division II-AA winners-bracket final of the state high school softball tournament.
GPS rebounded and beat Briarcrest Christian 10-1 in the losers-bracket final. Baylor (39-5) and GPS (25-12) will play in the championship game tonight at about 8 p.m EDT.
Baylor led 2-1 before Precious Birdsong started the sixth with a double. Birdsong, Sarah Moore and Braleigh Angel ended up with two each of the Lady Raiders' tournament-record tying nine hits in the big inning. Angel and Maya Mathis contributed two-run singles.
The Bruisers left six on base through four innings with four in scoring position.
"You've got to score runs to take the pressure off yourself defensively," GPS coach Susan Crownover said. "It's a lot of pressure playing against their batters."
Baylor stranded nine through the first five innings with five at either third or second.
"We had some opportunities early," Baylor coach Kelli Smith said, "but they turned that big double play and got a big strikeout and we left the bases loaded."
Cassi Pickett went 3-for-3 with a double for Baylor and Moore and Birdsong each ended up 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Moore also had an RBI. Haley Andrus was 2-for-4, doubling in a run and scoring in the sixth.
Winning pitcher Kaitie Sims gave up five hits, walked two and struck out four.
The Lady Raiders came into the tournament hitting better than .400 as a team, but Smith credited the glovework her team has done, too.
"I still believe defense is what wins ballgames," Smith said. "Our defense helped us keep it close until we had that big inning."
Bailey Davenport went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored in the Bruisers' victory.
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 email@example.com.