Girls Preparatory School senior pitcher Hannah Sanders was all smiles after Thursday's softball game against rival Baylor.
She had every reason to be after what both she and her coach, Susan Crownover, described as easily her best pitching performance of the year — a three-hit shutout against the four-time reigning state champs.
Sanders' dominance and a grand slam from freshman Ansley Blevins led the host Bruisers to a 5-0 victory over the team that has been the thorn in their side for the past few seasons. Baylor (17-2) and GPS (9-3) have met for the Division II-AA state championship five years in a row.
"We wouldn't have been able to win without my defense behind me," a humble Sanders said. "The key today was just to keep the ball low. They're a great hitting team, and I just needed to have confidence to hit my spots."
Sanders never was challenged by the typically potent Baylor offense. Despite striking out just two, the Bruisers' ace never allowed a runner past second base as she generated weak contact most of the afternoon.
"(Sanders) was just out there throwing it everywhere we called it," Crownover said. "She did an outstanding job keeping them off balance. That's a good team she shut down. It's a good day for the Bruisers."
Blevins' blast gave Sanders and the Bruisers all the runs they needed in the second inning. After GPS loaded the bases with one out, the catcher — who also hit a home run against Baylor last year as an eighth-grader — hit a towering opposite-field shot to right field that sent the dugout and home crowd into a frenzy.
"I was just thinking about moving the runners in that spot, not hitting a homer," Blevins said. "I've been in a little bit of a slump and was just focused on making good contact. But I knew it was gone when I hit it."
The four freshman starters made the difference offensively for GPS. Blevins, Abbie Reel, Brynley Oliver and Stella Henry went a combined 6-for-12 and accounted for all five RBIs, all from the sixth through ninth spots in the batting order.
Even with the win, Sanders knows the ultimate goal is still in front of her team — to finish her final prep season with a state title.
Said Sanders: "Going forward, we just have to keep setting our goal higher and higher. The thing we're working toward is to get to play Baylor again (in the state final), and that's what we need to improve on."
Contact Kevin Llewallyn at email@example.com.