The Baylor softball bats came to life at just the right time. And now they have the championship plaque from the annual Hits For Hope tournament for the second straight year as a bonus.
Playing the CSAS Lady Patriots for the third time in three days Saturday night at Warner Park, Baylor made the third time the charm as they finally won after a loss on Thursday and a 2-2 tie in Friday's opening game.
The third time wasn't nearly as close as the first two as Baylor rolled to the 13-2 victory as the Lady Red Raiders did all of their scoring in the first three innings.
The first four hitters in the Baylor lineup did most of the damage as they collected 10 of their team's 14 hits and they scored 10 of their 13 runs.
As a result, Kayla Hughes breezed to the victory as she allowed a couple of unearned runs on three hits. She also had seven strikeouts while walking one and hitting one.
Baylor coach Kelli Smith certainly wasn't the happiest person at the park on Friday after her team struggled to go 1-1-1 for the day, but at the same time, she wasn't in the panic mode.
Things were much better for the three-time defending D-II state champs as Smith had a grin on her face from ear to ear following her team's fourth win of the day.
"We finally started hitting the ball and we did an excellent job of executing our bunts," Smith said after her team's record improved to 19-3-1.
"We struggled a little bit on Friday, but we made some adjustments and things finally started to click. I'm really proud of the way we came back today," she added.
Baylor finished third in its pool and had to face Pool B winner GPS in a quarterfinal game. With A.J. Johnson scoring on a passed ball against the Bruisers, Baylor won that game by a 2-1 final before beating Central 5-1 in one semifinal.
The Lady Patriots beat Grundy County in the first game of the single-elimination competition before nipping Sale Creek by a 3-2 final in the quarterfinals on a clutch, two-out, two-run single by Mercedes Benn in the bottom of the sixth.
Then in the semifinals, the Lady Patriots pinned a 6-2 loss on St. Benedict before the game against Baylor.
Despite the last-game loss, CSAS coach Kaity Holloway was really pleased over the way her team performed this weekend.
"It was a really good weekend for us," she began, her team now 10-6-2 following the championship game.
"Briana Taylor pitched eight and a half games in the last three days and I'm sure she was tired tonight. If we'd had another pitcher, that may have been a different game.
"There's very little more I could have asked of these girls today. The errors shouldn't have happened, but I thought we hit the ball better than we've been doing and I thought we did a lot of growing up today. It's a great day to be a Lady Patriot," Holloway concluded.
Precious Birdsong broke out of a slump to get three straight hits and score three runs to pace the Lady Red Raiders from the leadoff spot.
Haley Andrus, surely one of the best hitters in the area, added two hits and finished with five runs batted in. Her two-run single got things going in the first while adding a two-run double in the three-run second. Then with the bases loaded in the third, she earned another RBI the easy way with a walk.
"We lost to them on Thursday before tying them yesterday. It was good to see us come back as a team tonight," she nodded. "I don't want to sound cocky, but it's my job to get my teammates home when they're on base, but I thought we played well today," the blonde-headed senior concluded with a smile.
Clean-up hitter Lauren Lewis also had three hits for Baylor and she finished with three runs batted in. Noelle Winkles also had two hits and scored twice.
Johnson was another offensive standout for Baylor as she ripped a two-run double to deep center in the first before adding an RBI-single in third.
Kamrie Rich, who caught the last two games and is only an eighth grader, also finished with two hits.
The Lady Patriots avoided the shutout with two runs in the third.
Benn led off with an infield hit before Jamani Greer got hit with a pitch. Taylor then reached on a one-out error as Benn scored the first run while the second one came home on a two-out single by Kiara Suttles.
Central didn't win a game in pool play, but the Lady Pounders may have had the biggest surprise on Saturday after they shocked Pool A winner Christian Academy of Knoxville in the quarterfinals.
Freshman Brooke Parrott was instrumental in the win as she had two hits and two RBIs while hurling a two-hitter with six strikeouts and a walk. Alexis Grampp also had a pair of hits for Central in the 4-1 win over the Lady Warriors. Grampp's solo homer in the fifth inning was Central's only run against Baylor.
Sam Scott and Lexie Ainslie both had a pair of singles in the loss to Baylor while Parrott, and Ally Welch had a single apiece.
Baylor's win over Central in the semis was a rematch from last year's championship game that the Lady Raiders won.
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Taylor, Petulla (3) and Suttles; Hughes and Rich.
(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)