MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Neither Baylor nor Pope John Paul II did a lot to speed up play in the Thursday's winners-bracket final in the Division II-AA high school softball state tournament. But the Lady Red Raiders' speed did a lot to influence the outcome.
Baylor (37-3) will now go for its fourth consecutive state title after beating the Lady Knights 10-2.
The Lady Raiders again will play Chattanooga rival Girls Preparatory School, which beat Pope John Paul II in the losers-brackt final Thursday evening.
"We've worked hard to get to this point," Baylor coach Kelli Smith said. "We've given ourselves the opportunity to play for a state championship. We're excited to be in this position."
Precious Birdsong led off for Baylor with an infield single, and although she didn't score after she stole second, there were signs of things to come. Birdsong, who ended up 3-for-3, had a bunt single in the Lady Raiders' four-run third inning and another in their five-run fifth.
In the fifth Birdsong got caught in a rundown between first and second. When she drew a throw to first as she was edging back, Cheyenne Lindsay broke from third and scored.
"We had some fun with our speed a little bit," Smith said. "Our bats have not been as productive lately, but our speed came through for us. We've got good defense, a good hitting lineup and good speed. It was good to see our speed come through today."
Lindsay is an eighth-grader who said she's excited to be playing in her first state tournament. She went 3-for-4 against JPII with a triple, an RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base.
"Sometimes we're a little too aggressive," Lindsay said. "But when we're aggressive, that's when we make things happen."
Other offensive standouts for Baylor included Crosby Huckabay, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, and Lauren Lewis, who was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer that capped the scoring in the fourth.
A.J. Johnson was 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Haley Andrus was 2-for-5. Noelle Winkles' two-RBI single got the scoring started.
Winning pitcher Kayla Hughes threw five innings and allowed three hits and three walks. She also contributed a run-scoring single,
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.