MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Chattanooga archrivals Baylor and GPS will meet again for the championship in the TSSAA Division II-AA softball tournament at Starplex No. 3.
Baylor defeated the Bruisers 5-2 in Thursday’s winners-bracket final, and then GPS beat Pope John Paul II 8-4 in the losers-bracket final.
Baylor (32-7) and GPS (17-14) — which met in last year’s final, the Bruisers winning a fourth consecutive title — will square off at 8 EDT tonight at the Starplex No. 3 field. The Lady Raiders have won the previous three meetings this year.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Baylor coach Kelli Smith said. “They’ve got such great experience at the state tournament, and there’s a history with these programs.”
The Lady Raiders came to the Spring Fling with a reputation for producing offensively, but their glovework has sparkled the last two days. Braleigh Angel, who was 4-for-4, drew praise from Smith for her work in left field. Smith also noted that catcher Cassi Pickett has struggled offensively at the tournament but it hasn’t affected her defense.
“Early in the year we had our ups and downs defensively,” Smith said. “We’re capable of being a very strong defensive team. We preach to the kids to play good defense and the offense will come.”
One of Angel’s hits was in the infield, but two runs scored off it. She also scored two runs, including coming all the way around when her single in the sixth was misplayed in right field and rolled to the fence.
Baylor’s Lindsey Yates went 2-for-3 and scored a run, and Noelle Winkles was 2-for-4 and had an RBI.
Winning pitcher Kaitie Sims gave up seven hits and three walks while striking out two.
Morgan Lane was 2-for-2 for the Bruisers. Catcher Katy Richardson was 2-for-3 and her courtesy runner, Raven Broom, scored on Lane’s single in the fourth. Madison Boyd had a run-scoring single the next inning.
“A big hit here and there and who knows?” GPS coach Susan Crownover said. “We had some opportunities. Sometimes it’s just good to know you had opportunities.
“I felt like we showed up and put forth a very good effort.”
Richardson went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs against the Lady Knights. Boyd was 2-for-5 with a triple and three RBIs and scored twice.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.