As expected, Baylor, GPS softball teams cruise to state rematch

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The only females who could potentially prevent, or at least delay, the inevitable matchup were Mother Nature and Lady Luck. It certainly wasn't going to be the two opponents Wednesday.

Perennial softball powers Baylor and GPS - considered to be on a collision course since the season began - are set to meet in the winners-bracket final of the Division II-AA state tournament after runaway wins Wednesday at the TSSAA Spring Fling.

Baylor needed just three innings to throttle Chattanooga Christian School 15-0, and GPS welcomed Tipton-Rosemark, which had chosen to move up in classification, to big-time softball with a 9-2 whipping.

The Baylor-GPS game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, although the Mid-State forecast calls for an 80% chance of rain at that time. Regardless of when they face off, there was never any doubt of that matchup, which will be the 10th in the past 11 state tournaments.

The winner of that game will advance to the championship round - marking the 19th straight season either Baylor or GPS has advanced that far - while the loser will take on the winner of an elimination game between CCS and Tipton-Rosemark, scheduled for an 11 a.m. Eastern start.

If Baylor (30-3) advances to the title game, the Lady Red Raiders will be trying to set a state record for consecutive championships, having won six straight entering this year's tournament. The 2014 title won by GPS is all that prevented Baylor from owning 10 straight going into this season.

"Here we go, just like we all expected, it's the blue team against the red team once again," Bruisers coach Susan Crownover said. "I told our players before the game to keep scoring every inning, don't let them hang around. I'm really proud of the way we hit the ball and played defense. We're playing pretty well at just the right time."

The Bruisers (22-8), who split the regular-season series with Baylor, scored in each of the first three innings Wednesday against Tipton-Rosemark (34-12), blowing the game open with five runs in the second. The top five hitters in the GPS lineup all had at least one RBI, led by Ansley Bratcher's three and Kennedy Moody's two.

Baylor, which has won 13 straight state tournament games, wasted no time in taking control with six runs in the first and continued to pull away against CCS (21-16). Holly Merritt and Riley Olesik each drove in four runs, while Raven Jones and Katie Raper each had two RBIs and Avery Shamblin allowed just two hits, striking out six batters in the win.

"We wanted to take care of business, get on top and play as few innings as possible so we'd be ready for the next game," Lady Red Raiders coach Kelli Smith said. "It was a total team effort again, from top to bottom, and now we can all turn our focus on the game that a lot of people have probably already been thinking about."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.