MURFREESBORO -- The GPS Bruisers are going to beat Baylor in softball one of these days, but it's not soon enough for GPS coach Susan Crownover.
Close may count in horseshoes and hand grenades, but not in high school softball. Crownover certainly isn't into moral victories.
Even though Madi Stanley outpitched Kayla Hughes and GPS had a 7-4 advantage in hits, the result was the same for the fifth straight time this spring as Baylor prevailed by a 2-1 margin.
"We outhit them again and played well enough to win, but we can't get a hit with runners in scoring position to save our life," Crownover said after the Bruisers fell to 21-10 for the season.
"Madi Stanley pitched her heart out and we made some great plays on defense, but we just couldn't get the big hit to put us over the top. Madi made one bad pitch and it cost her. We played very well, but it's the same result again. Playing well and still losing doesn't make me feel any better," the veteran GPS coach added.
Baylor was the visiting team and did its scoring right out of the chute.
Leadoff hitter Precious Birdsong appeared to strike out on a 3-2 pitch, but the umpire ruled that Stanley had made an illegal pitch, which put the speedy Birdsong on first. Stanley then had Noelle Winkles in an 0-2 hole before the Baylor center fielder ripped a pitch over the fence in right center for a 2-0 lead.
GPS scored its only run in the second. Taylor Battle led off with an infield hit before stealing second and then going to third on a single by Stephanie George. Hughes then got the first out on a come-backer before Abbey Anderson drove in the run with a grounder to first.
The Bruisers left at least one runner on base in every inning except the fourth, including the sixth when Battle reached on a two-out triple, but the sophomore Hughes was more than ready for the challenge. She did a lot of bending, but never broke as Baylor pulled another close one out.
"I'm very happy with how I pitched as I just went out there, tried to relax and hit my spots. I know that I have a solid defense behind me and they were outstanding again. The play that Haley Andrus made at third in the seventh was a game-changer," Hughes explained.
The play she was referring to was in the final inning when Haley Richardson led off with a single and replaced by courtesy runner Lilly Berger. She was sacrificed to second by Anderson. Bailey Davenport then ripped a scorching grounder to third, but Andrus made a clean scoop before firing a strike to first for the second out. Kelby Crownover then popped to the catcher in foul territory to end the game.
Baylor coach Kelli Smith was quick to give credit where credit was due.
"Madi Stanley has pitched well all season and she pitched exceptionally well tonight. She's probably the best pitcher we've faced all year. But the big hit by Noelle Winkles in the first was fantastic and Kayla Hughes pitched another great game.
"She wasn't overpowering, but she had a good defense behind her. We have a lot of confidence when she's pitching. Games like this seem to bring out the best in everybody. I'm so happy that we have tomorrow off, but I can promise you that we'll do some hitting," Smith added.
Hughes was the winning pitcher after allowing seven hits and a walk along with the one run. She only had one strikeout.
Stanley allowed four hits and three walks while striking out nine and hitting one.
While Winkles had the big two-run homer in the first, first baseman Crosby Huckabay had a two-out double in the first before adding a single in the sixth. Eighth-grade catcher Kamrie Rich had the only other Baylor hit, a line single to left in the seventh.
While Baylor has the day off on Wednesday, GPS returns to action on Wednesday at 5:30 (CST) against the Pope John Paul II-St. Benedict loser. Baylor will play the winner of that game on Thursday at 11:30 local time.
BAYLOR 200 000 0 -- 2 4 1
GPS 010 000 0 -- 1 7 0
Hughes and Rich; Stanley and Hobbs.
(email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)