COLUMBUS, Ga. — Bayli Cruse thought her job was going to be moving the runner over in the eighth inning of the GHSA Class AAAA softball championship game against Madison County.
With the Lady Bruins down 1-0 after the Raiders pushed across a run in the top half of the extra inning, Cruse was first up with Hannah Godfrey starting the inning at second via tiebreaker rules.
She moved Godfrey all right -- all the way home with a home run to dead center field for a 2-1 championship win.
Northwest coach Jason Brooker disdained the book move and went with his gut.
"I had my 3-4-5 hitters up, and we were due," Brooker said. "Bayli had really been struggling down here, but I felt confident in her. I told her in the dugout that you're not bunting, you're going to get a hit, but she did more than that."
Cruse didn't waste any time, hitting Randee Bettis's first pitch well over the fence and setting off a wild celebration in the middle of the diamond.
"I knew I had to get a hit and I believed I would, but I never dreamed I would do that," said Cruse, her voice nearly gone. "I just wanted to hit the ball, but to go out like that is amazing. I could never hit a bigger one."
Senior ace Emily Boyd finished her career with one of her best games, a three-hitter with six strikeouts against a team that scored seven runs off her in Thursday's first meeting between the teams.
"It's a dream come true," Boyd said. "I couldn't have asked for a better way to end it than a walk-off home run, and Bayli deserved that. I felt good out there. I just kept it off the meat of the plate and kept trying to move it. I worked my curveball and my changeup more.
"It's so great, and I guess it won't really sink in until the bus ride home."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...