MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — GPS softball coach Susan Crownover didn't lay blame for Tuesday's 5-4 loss to Pope John Paul II in Tuesday's Division II-AA opener in the Spring Fling, but the final pitch was off the mark and proved to be costly.
With the winning run on third base and two out in the bottom of the seventh, Crownover wanted to intentionally walk Lady Knights cleanup batter Chelsea Fair, who had homered earlier in the game. Catcher Katy Richardson stood and extended her right bare hand as a target for Corey Swafford, who had come on in relief of Madi Stanley in the fourth.
But the first pitch drifted over the plate and Fair dropped it into right field for the winning hit.
"It looks like that beat us," Crownover said, "but what else did we not do? One play wasn't what beat us. Not getting hits with the bases loaded; not getting hits with runners in scoring position; it was lots of stuff."
GPS (23-8) will play again at Starplex No. 3 today at about 7 p.m. EDT against the loser of the 1 p.m. game between Baylor and St. Benedict.
Fair said she was unaware Richardson was standing behind her with her hand out. Therefore she was ready when the pitch floated near the plate.
"I didn't know until I got to first," Fair said. "I heard someone say, 'She was so far off the plate.' I said, 'Really?'"
Crownover gave credit to the Lady Knights (25-18) for staying upbeat throughout the back-and-forth game and said they deserved to win.
"That's the first time we've ever beaten GPS," PJPII coach Jody Brothers said. "We're not done. You don't get trophies for beating GPS the first night. It's a good feeling to play as hard as you can and be rewarded."
Stanley walked four batters in 3 2/3 innings pitched, two of which scored. She also hit three batters.
Chelsey Smith's two-run homer put Pope John Paul II ahead 4-3 in the fourth before the Bruisers tied it on Taylor Battle's single in the sixth.
Richardson went 2-for-3 for GPS, which got its first two runs on a homer by Stanley. LeeAnn Jackson's bases-loaded walk provided the other in the third.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
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.