Dynamite Dozen Dynasties No. 8: Kelli Smith has helped build Baylor’s softball dominance

Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / Kelli Smith, center, was a star shortstop on Baylor's first two softball state title teams, and as coach she has led the program to 13 more TSSAA championships.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series counting down the area's top 12 prep dynasties of the past 50 years.

When it comes to the Chattanooga area's most dominant prep teams, there is no one more deeply rooted in helping a particular program become a dynasty than Baylor School softball coach Kelli Smith.

As an all-state shortstop, Smith helped the Lady Red Raiders win their first two state championships as they won consecutive TSSAA Class AAA crowns in 1993-94. She returned to guide the program to 13 more titles, all in Division II, as head coach.

"We've had incredible athletes, which makes our job so much easier," said Smith, who also has two runner-up finishes along with the 15 championships on her resumé and has had more than 25 players earn college scholarships. "The standard has been set to be the best on the field and how to represent the program, and what qualifies being a great leader has also been passed down.

"When I first came to Baylor, I noticed how competitive everything was, even in the classroom. Everyone here is just very driven in whatever they are doing, so when we get the kids in sixth grade, we begin to work on instilling in them how to play the right way and what the expectations are.

"It's not a stressful thing, but there is an expectation that we put our best teams on the field."

  photo  Staff photo by Robin Rudd / Baylor's Riley Olesik (1) heads toward her cheering teammates at the plate after hitting a home run during an 8-2 victory against rival GPS to win the TSSAA Division II-AA softball championship in May 2022 in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

In all, Baylor has made 24 state tournament appearances since 1992 and has missed only once (2008) in the past 22 seasons.

Entering this season, the Lady Red Raiders have won a state-record seven consecutive championships, compiling a staggering 224-22 overall record during that span, and they own an incredible 13 of the past 20 D-II titles.

Baylor has won 14 straight state tournament games, and the only thing preventing them from having won 11 straight championships was rival GPS rallying to win two straight games in the 2014 finals.

"That 2014 team was one where I felt like we let one slip away, so it's not always just about talent," Smith said. "Doug Moser is the person who set the standard here. We all played basketball and softball for him and learned how to do things the right way like work hard, have good attitude, control the things that are in your control and how you respond when things don't always go your way.

"With my faith and what I believe, that makes it easier to just prepare and enjoy the process and not get as caught up in the winning. There's a bigger picture, and we're called to mold the young ladies in our program, so my responsibility is to develop their character, because softball will end.

"I always remind them that there's a gold trophy out there that somebody needs to go get, and we want it to be us every year."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293.


No. 12: Baylor boys' and girls' tennis

No. 11: Calhoun baseball

No. 10: Bradley Central wrestling

No. 9: Gordon Lee softball

No. 7: Cleveland wrestling

No. 6: Baylor wrestling

No. 5: Calhoun football

No. 4: Dalton boys' soccer

No. 3: South Pittsburg football

No. 2: Baylor boys' and girls' golf

No. 1: Bradley Central girls' basketball