Baylor sophomore pitcher Kayla Hughes can testify that there's nothing like a plan when it comes together.
At least hers did Tuesday at GPS, where she and her defensive mates limited the Bruisers to a few hits and even fewer good scoring opportunities on the way to a 4-0 victory in the first Division II-AA East/Middle Region high school softball game for both teams.
The better a team's region record, the better its chances of playing at home when postseason starts. Not that GPS is in any danger of hitting the road for the state playoffs after one game, but Baylor coach Kelli Smith said she stressed the importance of the game at Monday's practice -- particularly to her younger players -- and not just the part about it being against their rival.
"We do not want to travel to Memphis at the end of the year," Smith said.
Hughes, who had four strikeouts, acknowledged that the Bruisers likely would be able to make contact. She was just looking to stay away from the sweet spots on the bats.
"My changeup was probably my best pitch that I had working today," Hughes said. "My game plan going in was that I just needed them to make bad contact because I have a great defense behind me, and to hit my spots."
The Bruisers managed five hits off Hughes -- all singles.
"I thought we swung at a lot of bad pitches," GPS coach Susan Crownover said. "She'd get ahead and we'd come back and swing at bad pitches for a batter and good pitches for a pitcher. We were out on our front foot a lot."
GPS starting pitcher Madi Stanley had seven strikeouts in her four innings of work, but both of her walks came back-to-back starting the third inning when Baylor (14-1) scored three times.
Noelle Winkles' RBI pop-fly double down the left-field line was the Lady Red Raiders' only extra-base hit. Catcher Haley Andrus then lined a run-scoring single to left and Lauren Lewis followed with a sacrifice fly to right.
Their other run came in the sixth off reliever Shelby Walters. The first three batters singled that inning with pinch-hitter A.J. Johnson picking up the RBI.
"We didn't have any homers, or doubles off the fence," Smith said, "but I thought we made some good decisions on the bases."
Crownover said she had planned ahead of time to pitch both Stanley and Walters, so as to not let the Lady Raiders see the same pitcher on their third time through the lineup.
"I thought both pitchers did a good job of holding them down," Crownover said. "They didn't hit a ton of balls hard. We just didn't get enough hits to win."
Smith said she wasn't surprised by the move.
"In past games, sometimes, that's when we've found success," Smith said, "against several pitchers."
The Bruisers' best chance to score was in the first inning when Bailey Davenport led off with a single and was sacrificed to second. She moved to third on a groundout, but a popout ended the threat.
"It always helps to score early," Crownover said. "The first inning we were ready to go and didn't get it done."
GPS (7-3) got runners to second base in the third and fourth innings, but not until two were out.
"Kayla and Haley were fantastic in their part," Smith said. "Obviously flawless defense is where you have to start. To keep a team scoreless, that's the key."
Lewis ended up 2-for-2 for Baylor. Winkles and Andrus each went 2-for-4.
Davenport and Taylor Battle were each 2-for-3 for the Bruisers.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
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.