MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The players' names change, but the results do not. For the fifth consecutive season and eighth time in the past nine years, Baylor won the Division II-AA softball state championship, this time with a 2-1 victory over Girls Preparatory School on Thursday.
"It's really unbelievable to think we've won this five years in a row," said Baylor coach Kelli Smith, who has been a part of each of the program's 13 state titles — two as a player and 11 as coach. "It was really big the way we answered back right after they scored, and it seems like every year we have somebody new that steps up and comes through for us. That's just a testament to the way our kids work."
It was Sydney Berzon's turn to step up Thursday and the freshman answered, much as she has throughout the season. One of six starters who were not a part of last year's Baylor title, the 6-foot right-handed pitcher scattered five hits, shutting out the Bruisers over the last four innings, including working her way out of two jams with runners in scoring position.
Berzon, who has committed to LSU, also drove in both Baylor runs with a third-inning single that plated Emily Rye and Britt Barton.
"I've known about the program's history, so to finally be a part of it, helping win another championship, is just amazing," said Berzon, who struck out four batters. "When I got up to bat in the third, I knew what I had to do, because we probably weren't going to have many chances to score. I just wanted to get a pitch I could drive somewhere."
GPS (28-9) took a short-lived lead in the top of the third when Stella Henry scored on an error. Bruisers senior pitcher Hannah Sanders allowed six hits and stranded seven runners on base but couldn't get the run support she needed to extend the series as Baylor pulled out its second one-run win in as many days over its Chattanooga rival.
"That's a special group," GPS coach Susan Crownover said, nodding toward her team. "They've come together so much this season, and I just appreciate the way they have played all year. We couldn't get the big hit when we needed it."
Raven Jones went 2-for-3 for Baylor (42-3) and Makayla Packer, who won the 200-meter dash in Wednesday's Division II-AA girls' track and field state meet and finished second in two other sprint events, had a hit and recorded the final putout on a fly to center field.