If you don't think outstanding defense will win softball games, then you should have been at Baylor Tuesday afternoon.
The Lady Red Raiders have one of the best hitting teams in the state as they beat a lot of good teams with power at the plate.
They had to depend on the defense against arch-rival GPS on Tuesday, but it came through when the bats did not.
Baylor was limited to just two hits on the afternoon as GPS starting pitcher Madi Stanley was in total control. Unfortunately, she was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs as Baylor improved to 33-3 overall with the 5-3 victory.
And while GPS had eight hits for the game, the big question of "what if?" came into play as the Bruisers left a dozen runners stranded, including the bases loaded in the third and sixth innings.
GPS threatened all afternoon, but the Baylor defense kept them from scoring more than they did.
Bailey Davenport walked to lead off the game and went to second on a sacrifice by Kelby Crownover. Stanley ripped a line single to center and Davenport made the turn at third and raced for home, only to be thrown out at the plate by Lady Raider Noelle Winkles in center.
Then in the top of the seventh with Baylor holding on by a thread with a 5-3 advantage, GPS again loaded the bases with nobody out.
Stanley led off with a walk and was replaced by courtesy runner Izzy Phillips. Taylor Battle singled before Baylor starter Kayla Hughes was replaced by freshman Cayley Quinn.
Stephanie George reached on an infield single to load the sacks before Shelby Walters ripped a shot to center. Winkles made the catch and then her second assist of the game when she nailed Phillips at the plate for Baylor's second double play of the game.
Baylor catcher Kamrie Rich, who is only an eighth grader, made both plays at the plate and was one of the leaders of the outstanding defensive effort.
Abbey Anderson then grounded out to third to end the game.
Baylor scored its first run in the second when Stanley issued four of her eight walks. The last one went to Winkles to drive in A.J. Johnson.
The Lady Raiders made it 2-0 in the fifth when Lauren Lewis hit a towering solo homer to left for Baylor's first hit.
GPS finally broke through in the top of the sixth.
Stanley led off with her second hit of the day before Battle walked. George reached on a Baylor error to load the bases before Anderson drove in the first run with a single to left. Davenport flied to left for the second out before Crownover lined a shot into the gap in left-center to drive in the next two to put the Bruisers up 3-2.
Baylor knotted the score in the bottom of the sixth when Johnson got hit by a pitch with one out. The speedy freshman promptly stole second and third before scoring on a wild pitch.
Pinch hitter Maya Mathis and Precious Birdsong both walked before Winkles drove in the game-winning runs with a double to left-center.
Winkles then came back just a few minutes later to save the day with another perfect throw to the plate.
"I don't think I've ever had two assists in the same game, especially in such a big game like this one," Winkles said after the game ended.
"The game would have been closer had the girl scored from third, but she got a late jump that gave me a chance. You always want to win on Senior Night," Winkles, one of five Baylor seniors honored before the game, added.
This is the fourth time Baylor has beaten their arch-rival and they've all been close games that went down to the wire. GPS coach Susan Crownover is just waiting for the day when things end favorably for her team.
"Maybe one of these days," she began.
"We've outhit them two or three times this year, but we can't seem to finish like we should. We fought hard and played with a lot of intensity. We gave it all we had and I certainly have no complaints about our effort, but the strike zone was tight for both teams.
"That was a rope that Kelby hit in the sixth and I felt pretty good at the time, but we just couldn't hold them off. Baylor has another outstanding team and that's why all of those seniors are going to Division One schools next year to play softball," she added.
Baylor coach Kelli Smith was just happy that her girls were able to prevail and she was especially glad that Winkles came through like she did.
"Noelle was simply amazing. I've always said that good defense wins games, but she made two incredible throws from center, including that double play in the seventh," Smith said after her team had won for the 18th straight game.
"It was rough for a while, but it was great to see a senior like Noelle come through. It was also good to see Cayley Quinn come off the bench and do her job as well. Madi Stanley pitched a great game.
"We beat GPS in the Hits for Hope tournament with only three hits, so I know it can be done, but again, I'm really proud of our defense. They played solid today," Smith nodded.
Stanley and George were the only GPS players with two hits.
While the double play in the seventh was huge for both teams, Baylor had another twin-killing in the second when Walters lined to shortstop Shelby Ellis, who then stepped on second for the unassisted DP.
GPS 000 003 0 -- 3 8 0
BAYLOR 010 013 x -- 5 2 2
Stanley, Walters (6) and Richardson; Hughes, Quinn (7) and Rich.
(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)