Baylor's Noelle Winkles indicated she'd been a little disappointed in her bunting and slapping game lately, which isn't a good thing for someone batting in the No. 2 spot.
So after scrapping any thoughts of playing small ball in her final two at-bats Tuesday at Baylor, Winkles homered in the fifth and sixth innings, cushioning the Lady Red Raiders' one-run lead and propelling them to a 4-0 high school softball victory over GPS.
By winning the Division II-AA East/Middle game, Baylor (20-5, 3-1) created a three-way tie in the loss column with GPS (13-4, 3-1) and Pope John Paul II (2-1) atop the league standings.
Winkles, a junior who has committed to play at Kennesaw State, has batted in the No. 3 spot many times in her Baylor career. She said she hasn't changed her approach although she's changed slots in the order.
"It was the end of the game, and I've been struggling with my slaps," said Winkles, whose second homer came after Precious Birdsong's bunt single. "I'm getting too ahead of myself, dropping my hands, so I decided to swing away. It's a different timing. I waited back, found my pitch and it worked."
GPS coach Susan Crownover is aware of Winkles' power capabilities.
"We got a couple in there too straight and too close to hit," Crownover said.
The Lady Raiders led from the first inning on, in part because of Winkles' defensive heroics in the top of the inning. The Bruisers got three hits off winning pitcher Sarah Moore and also coaxed a walk but didn't score thanks to Winkles' diving catch in left-center that ended up a double play.
"I still think defense wins championships, ultimately," Baylor coach Kelli Smith said. "The way it went at the start of the game, if we don't get that huge catch and turn it into a double play, the momentum swings their way and it could've been a totally different ballgame."
Said Crownover: "A real positive at the start of the game turned into a negative in about half a second. We did not do some small things today that we've got to get better at."
The Bruisers' Madi Stanley walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning but was one strike away from escaping damage when she walked Moore to force in a run.
"The way it started for both teams, I thought it was going to be a high-scoring game," Smith said. "The first inning took 30 or 35 minutes to play. There was a lot of offense by both teams to only have one run score. Sarah settled down then and pitched great after that."
Moore, who singled and doubled in her other at-bats, ended up with a five-hitter with nine strikeouts. She walked three and hit a batter.
"Two timely hits would've given us three or four runs," Crownover said. "We've been getting those hits all year. We didn't get them today."
Katy Richardson and LeeAnn Jackson were each 2-for-3 for GPS.
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 email@example.com.