Baylor's Hughes Turns In Veteran-Like Relief Effort To Subdue GPS

'Saves" Moore's Starting Performance As Lady Raiders Still In Hunt For Title

Thursday, May 23, 2013 - by Larry Fleming

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Baylor School and Girls Preparatory School are separated by 3.8 miles in Chattanooga.

Softball teams representing the two private schools drove 112 miles earlier in the week to reach Murfreesboro and the Division II-AA state softball tournament.

On Wednesday evening, the Red Raiders and Bruisers went head-to-head on Field 3 at the Starplex softball complex in a loser’s bracket game for the ages.

Baylor won, 6-5, beating GPS for the third time this season.

The rivalry is always heated.

The action is always furious.

Unfortunately for the Bruisers, the result was the same – another loss to Baylor.

GPS got a first-inning run. Baylor scored twice in the second and fourth innings to take a 4-1 lead.

The Bruisers rallied for three runs in the fourth to tie the game at 4-4.

The Red Raiders scored twice again in the fifth. GPS got a run in the bottom half of the inning.

After starter Sarah Moore, the team’s lone senior who pitched Baylor to a state title two years ago, walked Bailey Davenport to start the sixth, coach Kelli Smith didn’t blink. She just brought in freshman Kayla Hughes to finish things off.

“I was feeling some pressure right there,” Hughes said. “It was a very big game. I’m just glad I got the chance to come in and finish it. I just needed to keep the ball low and have the batters make bad contact because I know the defense is great behind me.”

Simple enough.

Hughes – and that air-tight defense she was talking about – added a little more suspense to the situation, though.

Abby Anderson reached on a fielding error by Hughes, putting runners at first and second. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out.

Hughes walked LeeAnn Jackson to load the bases.

Oh, my.

Hughes struck out Kelby Crownover, GPS coach Susan Crownover’s daughter.

GPS pitcher Madi Stanley bounced out third-to-first to end the threat and preserve the Lady Raiders’ shaky one-run lead.

Whew!

“Every time Kayla is in a ballgame great things happen,” Smith said. “She got the save tonight, but I gave her a “team win” for the job she did.”

Hughes probably earned a Houdini medal for escaping that monster mess in the sixth.

“She’s amazing,” said Smith, whose Lady Raiders will play the Pope John Paul II-St. Benedict loser in an elimination game on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Chattanooga time. “We’ve played a lot of tournament this season and I tried to put her in situations like that.

“Granted, those weren’t state tournament games against our biggest rival, but I had all the confidence in the world in her right there. She’s one of those kids with ice in her veins. She threw a great game in our best-of-three series with Father Ryan to get us here.”

In the seventh, Hughes retired Stephanie George on a bouncer back to the pitcher. She struck out Corey Swafford. With the victory in sight, Hughes fanned Taylor Battle to end the game.

“She did a fine job,” Moore said of her reliever-in-chief. “We always work together like this.”

Said Moore, “I expect nothing different from (Hughes) when she goes into a game.”

Moore went five innings, giving up eight hits and five runs while walking six and striking out four. Hughes pitched two hitless innings, walking one and striking out three.

Moore’s evening effort was in stark contrast to the start she had in the game against St. Benedict. She lasted just one-third inning. She gave up a hit, two runs, walked four and uncorked a wild pitch.

What was the difference in the day’s second game for Moore?

“I threw a lot more strikes,” she said. “I didn’t think about the morning game when we were getting ready to play GPS. After we got off the bus we focused on the next game.”

Despite her poor morning outing, Smith’s confidence in her was not shaken. About 45 minutes prior to the GPS game, Smith told her star right-hander she would get the start.

“I think coach Smith always has confidence in all of us to do our job, so it was more about me having confidence in myself,” Moore said. “Tonight I was just trying not to walk people and get them to hit ground balls.”

Hughes relieved Moore in the early game as well, throwing 5.2 innings and gave up six hits and three runs. She struck out five and walked none.

Why did Smith give the ball to Moore again?

“Sarah is our senior and she’s started since the eighth grade, either at shortstop or pitching,” the coach said. “She’s an absolute competitor. She’s a champion. Any other kid on the mound and I would have a much quicker hook. She walked some people tonight and hit a batter, but it’s because of who she is as a player that I stuck with her.”

With Moore and Hughes handling the mound duties, sophomore Maya Mathis got the offense off and running with a two-run homer in the second inning.

Mathis was psyched after the game.

“It was good timing,” she said. “And it was my first home run this year. I’m glad it got us going and gave us some momentum. It was a fastball straight down the middle and I was looking for it.

“We played a great game tonight. We knew what we had to do and we did it. I’m proud of us.”

GPS’ Stanley, who was masterful in her own right with a complete game eight-hitter, felt the Bruisers played their hearts out only to come up short.

“We lost to them twice during the season and we were pumped for this game,” said Stanley, who walked five and struck out four while giving up all six Baylor runs. “We honestly thought we could win and we fought as hard as we could.

“There’s not much to be terribly upset about. We didn’t play so well (Tuesday) and that was a bad game. We played well tonight.”

And another aspect of the game caused Stanley to avoid the blahs.

“We fought back and tied the game and we haven’t done that all year,” she said. “Our team has really grown together and we’ve come a long way. We felt we had a good chance to win the tournament.”

Instead, the Bruisers finish 23-9.

Baylor (33-7) has a chance to play on.

And that’s "Hughes."

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)


PHOTOS: Scenic City Scorcher

Lookouts Continue To Roll With Friday's 4-2 Win Over Mobile

MOBILE, Ala.  -- LaMonte Wade hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning, and Andy Wilkins homered as the Chattanooga Lookouts topped the Mobile BayBears 4-2 on Friday. The home run by Wade scored Dan Rohlfing and Nick Gordon to give the Lookouts a 4-0 lead. Chattanooga starter Dereck Rodriguez (4-1) picked up the win after allowing just four hits over five scoreless ... (click for more)

Woman Arrested In Murder Of Eric Burchfield In Hixson; Mother Of Victim Said, "Ember Killed Him"

A woman has been arrested in the murder of 28-year-old Eric Burchfield in Hixson early Friday morning. Police identified her as Ember Lee Cash Elm. She was booked as Emily Leanne Brooks Johnson, 26, of 4024 Woodmont Dr. At 3:25 a.m., Chattanooga Police responded to a person who had been shot at the Kangaroo Express at 4849 Hixson Pike. Officers were on regular ... (click for more)

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson Booked At County Jail; Says He Is Not Guilty

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson was booked at the Bradley County Jail Friday morning. He faces six separate charges of altering/falsifying/forging a title plate assignment. Sheriff Watson, a former state legislator, posted a $30,000 bond. He issued this statement, "For more than a year, I have confronted numerous accusations from some who desire to have more control ... (click for more)

Do Something To Protect Our Children

It is unconscionable in this day and age that these children had to exist in such deplorable conditions and that an innocent baby suffered and died alone in a locked car.  Yes, there is blame and accountability considering this family had child neglect charges filed a few years ago (that were apparently dropped and expunged) and a large part of the responsibility should ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My Dear Friend Jake

Two weeks ago four of us piled in a car to go down to Canton, Ga., so we could tell Jake Butcher goodbye. Bob McKamey, former mayor Ron Littlefield, a dazzling guy named Steve Wilson, and myself. This would be the last time any of us would see Jake. It was a spectacular day and anyone who doesn’t believe in such goodbyes is missing out on the greatest moment in their life. It is ... (click for more)