MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — It was certainly worth the wait.
Two Chattanooga softball teams needed clutch hits in their final at-bats Wednesday to advance to state championship series. One was expected; the other is rapidly becoming the feel-good story of the entire tournament, regardless of classification.
In the 90-plus-degree heat of early afternoon, Baylor pushed a run across in the bottom of the seventh to edge Chattanooga rival GPS 4-3 and earn the right to play for its fifth consecutive Division II-AA state title. In the evening, Chattanooga Christian School came off the deck to score two runs in the home half of the seventh to beat The King's Academy 7-6.
Just four years after reviving its program, CCS plays Thursday for a DII-A championship.
"Ever since we started the program back, this was our goal," said Lady Chargers coach Lisa Gray, whose husband Thomas had a memorable day of his own, helping coach Gordon Lee's baseball team to its second straight Georgia Class A title. "These kids just were not going to lose. They kept fighting back and refused to quit. I'm so proud of them."
After building a 5-2 lead in the fifth, CCS surrendered four runs in the sixth and trailed by a run going into its final at-bat. The first two batters reached on a walk and a hit-by-pitch, and after a sacrifice bunt moved them, Lauren Kay tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
With two outs, Madison Blevins fought off a couple of pitches before lining a single to right center field, bringing home her twin sister Miranda with the winning run.
"I had hit it in almost the same spot in my previous at-bat, but she made the play to get me out," Madison Blevins said. "I wasn't sure it got through until I saw the ball bounce and heard my teammates cheering.
"We got here last year and lost two games and had to go back home. That wasn't good enough this time. Our goal was to win a championship, and now we've got that chance."
In Baylor's win, senior Abby McNamara led off the seventh with a single and eventually came around to score when Sophie Piskos drilled a double to the fence for the game-winner.
"I looked at Abby before I stepped in to bat and just kind of nodded to let her know I was going to bring her home," Piskos said.
CCS, which also pulled out a one-run win in its tournament opener Wednesday morning, will await the winner of King's Academy vs. Friendship Christian for a 6:30 EDT meeting. Baylor will face the GPS/St. Benedict winner at 5. Both CCS and Baylor must lose twice not to claim a title.
The rest of the Chattanooga area's softball teams struggled Wednesday. Ooltewah was eliminated from the Class AAA bracket after losing 3-2 to Dyer County and 9-4 to Knoxville Halls. Marion County was eliminated from AA with a 2-0 loss to Gibbs, but Sequatchie County remained alive with a 7-0 win over Alcoa, highlighted by MacKenzie Turner's 18 strikeouts — two shy of a state tournament record.
In Class A, Sale Creek was blanked 10-0 by Summertown and Whitwell lost 7-0 to Columbia Academy as Brittany Adair struck out 16 and allowed just three hits. Both the Lady Panthers and Lady Tigers will look to avoid elimination with games this morning.
"We weren't disciplined at the plate," Whitwell coach Rebecca Castle said. "We didn't execute defensively, and it came back to bite us. You do that, you get beat."