MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Pope John Paul II scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday evening to beat GPS 5-4 in the opening game of the Division II AA state softball tournament here at the Starplex Field No. 3.
Taylor Battles had an RBI-single in the top of the sixth for the Bruisers to knot the score at 4-4, but the only error of the game by GPS in the seventh proved to be a costly one as the Lady Knights prevailed.
Chelsie Smith grounded to third for the first out before Anna Buchanan lined a single to right that eluded the fielder and rolled to the fence as Buchanan raced to third.
Corey Swafford coaxed Chelsey Stephenson into a come-backer for the second out and it looked like GPS might escape, but Chelsie Fair had other ideas.
Catcher Katy Richardson stood up and called for a pitchout, but Swafford's delivery wasn't far enough outside. Fair, who had ripped a solo homer in the third, poked a single to right as Buchanan raced home with the winning run as the Lady Knights exploded toward home plate to celebrate.
"That was fun," said Pope John Paul II coach Jody Brothers after his team had improved to 25-18 overall.
"That's our best all-around game all year. That was a great job by Anna to get on base before Chelsie got a good pitch and hit it. Defense and pitching has been our strength this year and we got rewarded tonight for it.
"We've never been in this position before as this was the first time we've ever beaten GPS. Of course, they won't give us a trophy for winning this game, but we're looking forward to a day off tomorrow. We lost to GPS 7-0 earlier, but we found a way to win tonight," Brothers added.
GPS coach Susan Crownover was anything but happy with the way her team played.
"That's just one play," she said, referring to the game-winning hit by the Lady Knights.
"Not getting a hit with the bases loaded hurt. And of course, we have to stop walking people, but Pope John Paul played with a lot of enthusiasm tonight and they wanted it worse than we did.
"This tournament isn't over as tomorrow is another day, but I'm disapppointed. We didn't play very well as we were uptight, but they deserved to win this game," Crownover added.
The Lady Knights took a 1-0 lead in the first when Chelsie Smith walked and went to second when Buchanan got hit by a pitch. Smith then stole third and scored when Buchanan stole second and Smith beat the throw home.
Madi Stanley's two-run homer in the second gave GPS a 2-1 edge before a bases-loaded walk to LeeAnn Jackson made it 3-1 in the third.
Fair's two-out homer in the third drew the Lady Knights within 3-2 before Smith gave her team the lead with a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth.
Battle's single in the sixth drove in Stephanie George, who had led off the inning with a double to right-center, to knot the score before Fair's game-winner in the bottom of the seventh.
GPS finished the game with eight hits as Richardson was the Bruiser with two. The Lady Knights were limited to just five hits, but two were home runs accounting for three runs. Fair had two hits while Smith, Buchanan and Hannah Nivison all finished with one apiece.
The Lady Knights will be off on Wednesday as they await the winner of the Baylor-St. Benedict game. GPS will play the loser of that game on Wednesday at 6:30 Chattanooga time.
Girls Preparatory School 021 001 0 -- 4 8 1
Pope John Paul II 101 200 1 -- 5 5 1
Stanley, Swafford (4) and Richardson; Stephenson and Lewis.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)