Baylor won its eghth straight Division II-AA softball title with a 9-5 win over Chattanooga Christian on Thursday at the Spring Fling championships in Murfreesboro.
photo by Contributed
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- They played the championship game on a different field from the previous seven years, but the results were the same as the Baylor Lady Red Raiders won their eighth straight Division II, Class AA state championship here at the Starplex Field No 2 Thursday afternoon.
It’s been a roller-coaster season for coach Kelli Smith and her talented bunch, but they’ve played with fire in their eyes for the last couple of weeks and won their last five games by scoring a total of 60 runs with four of those victories being the run-ruled variety.
Baylor’s championship march began with a couple of five inning games on Wednesday where they scored 13 runs in the fourth inning of a 15-0 romp over GPS. They followed that with a 10-0 win over the Tipton-Rosemark Lady Rebels in Wednesday’s second game, setting up the championship battle with the Chattanooga Christian Lady Chargers, the last team to beat Baylor at Baylor on Senior Night.
Baylor has now beaten the Lady Chargers two of the three times they played this spring, the last being the most important and certainly the most significant.
The final score on Thursday was a somewhat respectable 9-5 as Baylor bounced back from a 1-0 deficit in the first inning to score at least one run in the first four frames for a 7-2 lead after four innings.
The Lady Chargers made things interesting with three runs in the fifth to get within two runs, but Baylor answered with two runs in the bottom of the sixth and didn’t allow the Lady Chargers to score again.
Smith has become a regular at winning these state titles as Thursday’s was Baylor’s eighth straight and 11th in the past 12 years. She now has 14 state titles as their coach after winning two while there as a player.
“We’ve had our challenges this spring, but we started playing our best softball in the last few weeks,” Smith said amid a host of parents, school officials, tournament officials and countless others who were doing their best to catch the special moment with their camera.
“Our pitching has been really good all season, but we had problems with our hitting as we really didn’t reach our potential until just recently, but we finally did these last two days. I just wanted to see them have a little fun today and they did, but we finally came together as a team and our bats finally came to life.
“We always talk about our team goals at the start of the season and I tell them that what we’ve done is just part of our tradition and that what we do now is really what counts. But I’m so proud as they really came together when it counted the most,” Smith said.
Riley Oleksik is Baylor’s catcher who also serves as the team cheerleader. She’s had more than her share of timely hits this spring, but the 17-year-old junior really came through in the past two days with two of her nine home runs, including three hits and three runs batted in on Thursday.
“This team is on fire right now and this is a huge win for us after they beat us on Senior Night,” she began, her voice almost hoarse from the enthusiasm she’s showed the past two days.
“We finally put it all together and those two extra runs in the sixth really helped us,” she added.
The Lady Chargers scored an unearned run in the first when courtesy runner Neely Filaman scored following a single by Lauren McGill and the throw back to the infield was mishandled.
Baylor then took the lead with two runs in the bottom of the first, those coming on a two-run double by Katie Raper. Oleksik sparked a three-run second with a two-run single and drove in another with a solo homer in the fourth to extend Baylor’s lead to 7-2.
CCS had scored its second run on a solo homer by Autumn Hughes in the fourth.
A two-run single by McGill in the fifth and a wild pitch allowed CCS to score three runs and get within 7-5, prompting a pitching change where Kaylee Snyder came on to replace Avery Shamblin, but Snyder struck out the first two hitters she faced to prevent any further damage.
Snyder had an RBI-single in the sixth and Baylor added another run on a CCS error, but that was all the scoring. McGill had a leadoff single in the sixth and Hughes drew a one-out walk, but Snyder then got Nyla Halfacre on a fly to center before striking out Hannah Blevins to end the game.
Oleksik had three hits while teammates Kylie Henderson and sisters Morgan Sharpe and Syd Sharpe all had two each as Baylor finished the game with 13 hits total.
McGill had three hits for the Lady Chargers as her team finished with seven for the game.
CCS 11, TIPTON-ROSEMARK 8: The Lady Chargers had lost to the Lady Rebels by a 5-3 final in Wednesday’s first game, but were able to turn the tide in the losers bracket final to earn a spot in the championship against Baylor.
There was an abundance of scoring on both sides with a six-run third highlighting the CCS attack. Tipton-Rosemark had two runs in the first before knotting the score at 7-7 with four more in the fourth.
The Lady Chargers refused to be bothered as they bounced right back to score three in the bottom of the fourth and it never got much closer.
CCS coach Steven Rogers liked the way his team battled, although they made four more errors than he would have liked.
“I liked the grit and fight we showed today, but we hit the ball and we just have to keep moving forward. We know that the game with Baylor will be a huge challenge, but we’ve already beaten them once and have proved to everyone, including ourselves, that we’re capable of doing it again,” the coach nodded.
Hughes had three hits to lead the CCS hit parade as both teams finished with 13 hits.
Hannah Smith, Emily Matthews and Taylor Bullard added two hits apiece with Bullard’s three-run homer highlighting a six-run third.
Baylor finishes its season at 22-6-1 while the Lady Chargers finished a great season with a record of 23-14-1.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN 100 130 0 – 5 7 3
BAYLOR 231 102 x – 9 13 2
Smith, Hughes (2) and E. Matthews; Shamblin, Snyder (5) and Oleksik.
LOSERS BRACKET FINAL
TIPTON-ROSEMARK 201 410 0 – 8 13 3
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN 106 310 x – 11 13 4
Grantham, Howe (4) and Willis; Hughes, Smith (5) and E. Matthews.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)