MURFREESBOR0, Tenn. – Five was enough.
Girls Preparatory School’s softball team was fed up with losing to rival Baylor.
The Lady Red Raiders had won five straight games from the Bruisers coming into the 2014 Division II-AA state tournament and then won again in the opening game of the four-day event at the Starplex on Tuesday.
GPS then got down to work.
The Bruisers beat St. Benedict to start the tough grind through the loser’s bracket. Then Pope John Paul II fell to the Bruisers en route to the championship game on Friday.
There was Baylor, ranked No. 1 in the state in the latest coachT.com poll.
“We knew what we came here to do,” GPS' star pitcher Madi Stanley said. “We were determined.”
In the first title game, Stanley fired a three-hit shutout in a 2-0 win and helped snap the Lady Red Raiders’ 22-game winning streak. That had to sting.
Three hours later, Stanley was matched up again with Baylor stalwart Kayla Hughes.
Neither pitcher dominated, but the Bruisers, ranked No. 2, battered Hughes for 18 hits and 13 runs to give Stanley all the offensive support – and then some – she needed to finish off a superlative tournament.
After losing to Baylor on Tuesday, Stanley reeled off four consecutive wins and helped the Bruisers win their eighth state title and first since 2010. They left Murfreesboro with a 52-20 all-time record in the state tourney.
“I think most everyone doubted us today,” Stanley said. “Baylor is a great team. We lost to them five before today, they were going for their fourth straight championship and our spirits should have been down. But everyone on this team came ready to play and we did it. We beat Baylor twice.”
In five appearances, Stanley threw four complete games, worked 32 innings and struck out 33 while walking just six – one in the last three games.
Her ERA for the tournament was 2.65 and she gave up more earned runs (7) in the championship game than in the other four outings combined (5).
“We were so excited after winning the first game,” Stanley said. “Baylor was different because they were more ready to play in the second game. We said, ‘Girls, they want to beat us. They do not want to lose because this would be four (titles) in a row for them.’ ”
The game was tied 3-3 until GPS came up with five runs on six hits to break the game open in the sixth inning. Coach Susan Crownover’s squad added four more runs in the seventh to go up 12-3 and rendered meaningless the four runs Baylor scored in its last at-bat, including Crosby Huckabay’s three-run homer.
The first three Bruisers in the lineup – Bailey Davenport, Kelby Crownover, the coach’s daughter, and Hannah Kincer – were a combined 8-for-13 with six runs scored and five RBIs.
Davenport went 3-for-5, Crownover 3-for-4 with two RBIs and Kincer 2-for-4 with three runs batted in.
“Gosh,” Davenport said, “this is best feeling I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve dreamed about this since my freshman year. It’s amazing.”
The most poignant storyline for the Bruisers belonged to the Crownovers.
Kelby started some games as an eighth-grader and has been a sparkplug for the team ever since.
“I can’t put into words what this really means,” Kelby said. “My mom has coached me my whole life. I won state in my eighth-grade year and to win it again my senior year with her as my coach is just amazing and feels so good.”
Susan has enjoyed her coach/mother dual roles over the years and for Kelby to end her athletic career at GPS with a second championship ring is a wonderful thing.
“It’s a great end to a great career for her,” Susan said. “She’s been such a big part of all kind of teams at GPS. Kelby has had a great time at GPS and it has been a good school for her. It has all been very special.”
While not uncommon for a mom or dad to coach their offspring, the veteran coach has lived both roles this school year.
“I do enjoy being on the field,” Susan said. “It’s one thing to watch games from behind the fence, but I have to admit watching her from the bleachers play basketball this year.”
The players and coaches got away from the softball complex between games and spent time cooling down and eating dinner before returning to finish off the Lady Red Raiders.
“The girls were really excited after the first win,” the veteran coach said. “That was big and we had to bring them back down to Earth. We talked to them about one more game. Don’t be satisfied with one win today and they talked about that all the way back over here.
“They were determined. There have been times this year when we got down we couldn’t come back. With Baylor scoring once in each of the first and second innings, that was not such a great start for us.”
The ending was pure delight.
After the final out, the Bruisers erupted into a wild celebration
A few minutes later, coach Crownover and her players talked about the stunning events that transpired with media representatives.
“I’m still in shock,” Davenport said. “We gave it our all and showed guts and heart.”
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)