MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Considering their middle school team pelted them with silly string, songs were being sung and unsuspecting coach Kelli Smith got an ice-cold bath down her back, the Baylor Lady Red Raiders winning their third consecutive TSSAA Division II-AA softball state championship was anything but ho-hum. The same can't be said for the games.
The Lady Red Raiders came from the losers bracket to get to the finals, where they first defeated Pope John Paul II 10-1 and then whipped them 17-1 in five innings Friday at Starplex No. 2.
The celebrating was big at the end, but it began in Baylor's dugout early in both games. The Lady Raiders led from the top of the first inning each time.
"The more we experience it, you just want it that much more," Smith said. "It's a new group of girls every year. Granted, the core of this team has been together through this run, but every year you add new girls to the roster and you want them to be able to experience it."
Sophomore Lauren Lewis did her part and then some to make sure Baylor (36-7) would be celebrating. She drove in a run with a groundout, then added a two-run single and hit a sacrifice fly before delivering a grand slam.
In the second game she had eight total bases in her three at-bats, with a home run included, and drove in four more runs.
The eight RBIs she had in the first game of the final broke the state-tournament record for a single game, which Class AA Lexington's Brooklyn Hayes had tied the day before when she drove in six runs against East Hamilton. Lewis totaled 15 RBIs overall, which also is a state-tournament record.
Smith said she's seen hot streaks from Lewis before in her prep career, which started in eighth grade, but this was her best this year.
"Over time I build up more confidence," said Lewis, who had been sick and missed school all last week. "The more you see pitches the more you get to know the pitcher. Then your timing gets easier."
Maya Mathis gave Lewis the best support in the second game, going 3-for-3 with a home run, a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Precious Birdsong went 2-for-3 and scored four runs in the first game.
Baylor's only senior, Sarah Moore, was the winning pitcher in both games. Freshman Kayla Hughes relieved her late in both, the second time so Moore could play her final inning in a Baylor uniform at shortstop, which used to be her customary position.
"This year she knew from about mid-April she was going to have to pitch for us," Smith said. "She stepped up and started throwing it."
Moore has had a flair for the dramatic from time to time in her career, but there was little drama Friday. She did contribute a home run in the second game and afterward had her picture made together with the trophy and her mother, Kelly, who is fighting breast cancer.
"She's always here," Moore said. "She wouldn't miss it.
"What a perfect way to end it."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.