MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — It reads “Bruisers” across the front of their jerseys, so the athletes wearing them at the TSSAA state softball tournament must think they’re supposed to win the championship.
They’ve won the last four and their young team will get the chance at another today at 11 a.m. EDT after pulling out a 6-5 victory over Chattanooga rival Baylor in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday in the first game of the Division II-AA final.
It will be a rematch with Baylor (32-8) at Starplex No. 3. The Lady Red Raiders had won the previous three meetings this season.
Stephanie George put the Bruisers in the 5-5 situation they were in, then bailed them out of it with a two-out single to win it. With a two-run lead, GPS’s freshman third baseman snagged a line drive with two aboard in the top of the seventh, but she anxiously tried to double the runner off second and sailed her throw to the right-center-field fence, allowing both to score.
“I got excited on the throw,” George said. “I knew as soon as I let it go.”
Once a runner got to second base in the seventh, GPS coach Susan Crownover thought about putting in speedster and lone senior, Mary Anna Caldwell, to run. She scored the winning run.
“I went to Stephanie and said, ‘If you’re going to get a hit, I’ll go ahead and use her,’” Crownover said. “She said, ‘I’m getting a hit. Go ahead.’ You can’t ask for much more than that.”
GPS (18-14) broke through in the bottom of the first inning, starting with Bailey Davenport’s leadoff walk. She moved to second on a wild pitch, took third on a groundout and scored on Morgan Lane’s single.
The Lady Raiders tied it in the second, also starting with a walk. Haley Andrus scored on Precious Birdsong’s single after advancing to second on a groundout and to third on Lindsey Yates’ infield hit.
Kelby Crownover, who was 2-for-3, had an RBI single and Madison Boyd added the first of her two doubles and drove in two. Lane was 2-for-2 with a double and George wound up 2-for-4.
Tayana Fernandez scored the Bruisers’ other run. Pinch hitting, she reached on the first of back-to-back bunt singles, then went to third on a passed ball and scored when the ball was thrown away.
Winning pitcher Corey Swafford got some help from her defense with some standout plays, but she also had to pitch around six errors.
“I thought Corey was absolutely outstanding,” Coach Crownover said. “She deserves a ton of credit, most of it.”
Braleigh Angel was 2-for-4 and scored a run for Baylor. Noelle Winkles tripled, reached on an error and scored twice.
The Lady Raiders’ runs in the third scored on Cassi Pickett’s single and a groundout by Andrus.
“You’ve just got to let it go,” Baylor coach Kelli Smith said. “Credit GPS. They came out and hit the ball and made some plays on defense. We never had the lead. I’m proud of the girls for getting it tied up in the seventh. The great thing is we’ve still got a good chance tommorrow.”
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.