MURFREESBORO -- Baylor and GPS had played softball on five occasions before Friday with Baylor winning all five times.
The Bruisers had out-played, out-hit and out-pitched the three-time defending D-II state champions in most of those games, but still had nothing to show but frustration and a lot of "What ifs?" as a result.
But here at the StarPlex Field No. 3 on a hot and humid Friday afternoon in the championship finals of the TSSAA State Tournament, the Bruisers finally put those frustrations to rest.
Backing the brilliant pitching of senior Madi Stanley, the Bruisers snapped Baylor's 22-game winning streak in the first game with the 2-0 victory, forcing a second game. Proving that the first win wasn't a fluke, GPS rolled past the Lady Raiders by a 12-7 final for their eighth state softball title and first since 2010.
Stanley has been outstanding all season and particularly in games against their biggest rival, but she may have been her best ever on Friday as she scattered three hits while striking out nine and walking just one.
"I'm so excited as we've been ready for this day for a long time," she smiled shortly after the first game ended.
"Baylor had beaten us five straight times and I'm sure they were expected to win today, but our defense was awesome," she added.
GPS coach Susan Crownover was equally happy to finally break that five-game losing streak to their arch-rival.
"Finally!" she exclaimed after her team had improved to 24-10 with the win.
"We've been awfully close all season and we finally got the monkey off our back. We scored early and we made some great plays on defense, but Madi Stanley was the key. She was lights out and outstanding from start to finish.
"This is a big win for us, but it isn't over yet. We have to come back in a couple of hours ready to go back to work," Crownover nodded.
The only scoring in the game came in the second inning.
Abbey Anderson led off with a single and went to second on a groundout by Bailey Davenport. The Bruiser right fielder then moved over to third on a single by Kelby Crownover before scoring on a groundout to second by Hannah Kincer. The second run scored on a Baylor error before Red Raider pitcher Kayla Hughes retired the side.
Baylor, which had 17 hits in Thursday's win over Pope John Paul II, was totally ineffective at the plate as Stanley retired 12 straight hitters before Hughes ripped a two-out hit to left in the seventh.
Baylor coach Kelli Smith was direct and to the point when asked about Friday's first loss.
'We've got to hit the ball and today we didn't," she said as she headed toward the parking lot.
"Kayla pitched a great game and our defense played well, but the bottom line is you have to hit. Now we just have to go get some lunch, get some fluids in our system, let this game go and come back to play like we know how," Smith said.
Hughes was tagged with the loss, despite allowing just six hits and three walks in the complete-game effort.
Stanley had two hits to lead the Bruiser attack while Haley Richardson, Anderson, Crownover and Kincer all had one hit apiece.
Hughes had a pair of singles, one with two outs in the second and the other with two outs in the seventh. Catcher Kamrie Rich had the other single leading off the third.
While pitching was the dominant factor in the first game, the second one featured a whole lot more offense as GPS collected 16 hits while Baylor finished with 14.
Needless to say, beating Baylor once is a big deal in softball, but for the Bruisers to win twice on the same day is even bigger.
"It's been a difficult season at times," expressed Crownover following the second win of the day.
"Just beating Baylor once is great, but twice is even better. I thought we showed a lot of fight and we started swinging at better pitches, but some of those funny bounces finally started going our way. Madi stood tall again, but we've turned things around in the last couple of weeks as these girls have started to believe in themselves.
"Stephanie George has been struggling at the plate, but had a great tournament, and the same can be said for Haley Richardson. It takes unsung heroes like them to make a tournament like this successful, but they really stepped up today.
"I've won eight state titles in softball, but this may be the sweetest since my daughter Kelby is a senior and she too had a pretty good week," she added.
Baylor's Smith had a hard time expressing herself after losing in back-to-back games for the first time this year.
"That was really tough as I'm at a loss for words," she began after consoling several heartbroken Lady Raiders who had just played their final game in a Baylor uniform.
"GPS came in here and played well and deserved to win. It's hard to overcome a five-run inning like they had, but we tried," she added.
Baylor took an early lead with single runs in the first and second innings before GPS knotted the score with two unearned runs in the third. Both teams added a run in the fourth before GPS broke things wide open in the sixth by batting around and scoring five runs.
Kincer got the first RBI on a bases-loaded walk while Haley Smith and Stanley followed with run-scoring singles. George then had the big blow with a two-run, two-out single.
Crownover put a little icing on the cake in the seventh with a two-run double while Kincer concluded the scoring with a two-run homer.
Baylor came back with four runs in the bottom of the seventh, but that nine-run deficit was way too much to overcome.
Crosby Huckabay ripped a three-run homer while a triple by Maya Mathis drove in Hughes with the final run after she had doubled to left. Stanley then got a fly to center to end the game as the massive celebration began.
Davenport, Crownover and Richardson all had three hits for the victorious Bruisers while Kincer and George had two apiece.
Precious Birdsong had four hits to lead the Baylor attack while Winkles had three. Huckabay and Hughes had two apiece.
GPS finishes its season at 25-10 while Baylor ends the year at 37-5-1.
FIRST GAME SUMMARY
BAYLOR 000 000 0 -- 0 3 1
GPS 002 000 x -- 2 6 0
Hughes and Rich; Stanley and Hobbs.
SECOND GAME SUMMARY
GPS 002 105 4 -- 12 16 0
BAYLOR 110 100 4 -- 7 14 3
Stanley and Hobbs; Hughes, Quinn (7) and Rich.
(email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)