Chattanooga softball wraps up record setting 2008 campaign
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Hurndon - Championship Quality - the 2008 Chattanooga Lady Mocs Softball Team
Courtesy: GoMocs.com

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. A sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament, a pair of Southern Conference titles and numerous team and individual accomplishments attest to the fact that the 2008.Chattanooga softball season ranks among the more impressive in the program’s 15-year history.

 

The 2008 Regular Season

 

Facing the most competitive schedule of any Southern Conference team, Chattanooga began the 2008 season with a 5-6 record, splitting a pair of games with Wichita State and Kentucky, including a 10th inning walk off grand slam by freshman outfielder Lauren Flores (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.) to beat the Wildcats 9-6 on February 10.

 

During that time, the Lady Mocs traveled to LSU’s Easton Tiger Classic, winning their first three games by a combined score of 35-11 before dropping a 9-1 decision to No. 7 LSU a 15-3 loss to Nicholls State. Following their 3-2 performance in the Bayou, Chattanooga dropped a pair of eventful games to eventual NCAA Tournament participant Jacksonville State, 7-6 in eight innings and 7-5.

 

From there, UTC notched wins in five of its next six games, including a record-breaking 15-strikeout performance from sophomore pitcher Brooke Loudermilk (Locust Grove, Ga.) against Bowling Green on February 23, before alternating wins and losses over the next 13 games. During that stretch, Chattanooga defeated Indiana 8-1 behind a grand slam from junior outfielder Laci Upchurch (Madison, Tenn.) and Marshall 6-5 on a walk-off home run from freshman first baseman Michelle Fuzzard.

 

The Lady Mocs also traveled to the State of Florida for a pair of tournaments at the University of South Florida and a double-header with Florida Gulf Coast during that time. UTC opened play in the USF Under Armour Invitational facing three straight 2008 NCAA Tournament teams in Missouri, Long Island and Purdue before splitting with Central Michigan and Villanova. Chattanooga defeated LIU 1-0 behind a fifth inning solo home run from senior outfielder Ashlan Clarkson (Chickamauga, Ga.) and a complete game, five-hit shutout from Fuzzard.

 

The other highlight of the trip came when the Lady Mocs defeated Florida Gulf Coast, who had won 24 of their previous 25 games and lost only once at home, 3-1 on March 12.

 

After going 2-2 in the USF Under Armour Showcase, including a 3-2, 10 inning victory over Liberty and a 3-0 loss to Penn State, Chattanooga returned to Tennessee only to have their showdown with No. 2 Alabama and Kent State rained out. From that point, the season took a much different turn for the Lady Mocs as they began one of the more impressive runs in the history of the program.

 

Beginning with a 4-1 victory over UNC Greensboro on March 21 in which Loudermilk recorded 15 strikeouts, Chattanooga proceeded to win its next 14 games, including the first eight in Southern Conference play, for the fifth longest winning streak in team history. Series sweeps of UNCG, Western Carolina and Appalachian State, as well as double-header wins over Tennessee State, UAB and Middle Tennessee State highlighted the run.

 

The team’s two seniors kept the streak alive against Appalachian State trailing 1-0 as Clarkson singled home the tying run in the top of the seventh inning and senior shortstop Tara Tembey laced a single to right to give Chattanooga a 2-1 lead. Ace reliever Kaitlin Holloway (Chickamauga, Ga.) then came in to close out the win as struck out the Mountaineers best player, Katie Boyd, looking to end the game.

 

The streak would end on April 12 when the Elon Phoenix scored four first inning runs and managed a 5-1 victory before UTC rebounded to take the series with a 4-2 win the next day. The Lady Mocs solidified their hold on first place in the Southern Conference with a series sweep of Furman before dropping a pair of games to the College of Charleston and falling 3-1 in the opener of the Georgia Southern series.

 

With the chance to clinch their 10th Southern Conference Regular Season Title, Chattanooga took the early 3-0 lead against the Eagles in Game 2 before GSU managed a run in the fifth, followed by a three-run shot by Robyn Siliga, to take a 4-3 lead. Laci Upchurch evened the game at 4-4 as she led off the inning with a home run to left center before the Lady Mocs erupted for five runs in the top of the seventh to lock up the game with a 9-4 victory and claim back-to-back conference titles.

 

The 2008 Southern Conference Tournament

 

Chattanooga entered the 2008 Southern Conference as the No. 1 Seed and defeated No. 8 Western Carolina 3-1 in their opening game behind Loudermilk’s 14 strikeouts. A second round 3-0 loss to No. 5 UNC Greensboro sent the Lady Mocs to the loser’s bracket, where they were faced with winning five straight games in order to keep their season alive.

 

In an elimination game against No. 7 Appalachian State, UTC broke out the bats with a 9-2 victory as Loudermilk and Holloway combined on a four-hitter and Tara Tembey went 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs to end the Mountaineers season.

 

Later that day, Chattanooga took on the host school, No. 3 College of Charleston, and jumped out to a 5-0 lead behind a two-run home run from redshirt-freshman second baseman Tiffany Baker (East Ridge, Tenn.) before finishing with a 5-2 victory.

 

That set up a rematch with the Spartans of UNCG in the first of a possible three games on the final day of the tournament. This time, the Lady Mocs met the Spartans challenge easily, defeating them 3-0 to advance to the Championship Series.

 

In the finals, Chattanooga faced No. 2 Georgia Southern, having to win two games to claim the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

 

Georgia Southern took the early lead, 2-0, in Game 1 as the Eagles took advantage of a wild pitch and a run scoring single in the third inning. Chattanooga got a run back in the bottom of the fifth inning when a pair of singles and a sacrifice bunt made it 2-1. Still trailing by a run in the bottom of the seven inning and facing elimination, Tiffany Baker led off the inning with a double before Tembey singled her home to tie the game at 2-2.

 

With the bases loaded, Michelle Fuzzard then lined a shot to deep right, barely missing a walk off grand slam as the ball hit off of the top of the wall for a game-winning single.

 

After the narrow 3-2 come-from-behind victory in the first game, the Lady Mocs wasted little time in putting the deciding game well out of reach. A home run by Tembey to lead off the game put UTC up 1-0 before the Eagles tied the game in the second with a home run of their own.

 

That would be it for the Georgia Southern offense as Chattanooga pounded Eagle pitching for nine runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 10-1 lead. That rally featured a second home run from Tembey and a three-run shot down the left field line from junior third baseman Toni Hutchison (Madison, Tenn.) to close out the barrage.

 

In order to claim the 2008 Southern Conference Tournament Championship, Chattanooga had to win five consecutive elimination games, including three on Saturday. UTC defeated No. 7 Appalachian State 9-1 and No. 3 College of Charleston 5-2 on Friday, May 9 to avoid elimination and downed No. 5 UNC Greensboro 3-0 and No. 2 Georgia Southern 3-2 and 10-1 for the championship.

 

The 2008 NCAA Tournament Tuscaloosa Regional

 

Following the improbable victory out of the loser’s bracket in the Southern Conference Tournament, Chattanooga was awarded a four seed and sent to the Tuscaloosa NCAA Regional to face No. 3 Alabama. The Regional also included Jacksonville State and Florida State.

 

Against the Crimson Tide, the Lady Mocs allowed only a first inning run before Alabama struck for four in the bottom of the third and added one in the fifth and closed out the game with two in the sixth inning for an 8-0 victory. Chattanooga’s eight hits was only two away from tying the most given up by Alabama pitching to a non-Southeastern Conference team (10) and four away from the most allowed all year (12).

 

The loss dropped UTC into the loser’s bracket where they faced Florida State for the eighth time in program history. After a pair of early runs gave the Seminoles a 2-0 lead in the third inning, neither team was able to scratch a run until the bottom of the seventh inning.

 

Trailing by two with two outs, Lauren Flores worked the count full before taking a very close pitch to earn a walk and bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Michelle Fuzzard. The Huntington Beach, California native then lifted a long fly ball to deep centerfield where it bounced onto the top of, and over, the outfield fence for a game-tying two-out, two-run home run.

 

It would be a short lived celebration however, as the Seminoles charged right back in the top of the eighth inning, scoring three runs to take a 5-2 lead. Baker led off the bottom of the eighth with her sixth home run of the year but it was not enough as Chattanooga closed out the season with a 5-3 loss to FSU. Freshman pitcher Kandice Irwin (Knoxville, Tenn.) struck out a career-high tying nine batters in only 5.0 innings of work.

 

Single Season and Game Records in 2008

 

Katie Blevins

T-2nd in home runs (13)

4th in slugging percentage (.680)

 

Michelle Fuzzard

T-10th in doubles (14)

 

Toni Hutchison

T-10th in sacrifice flies (3)

 

Brooke Loudermilk

3rd in Most Strikeouts per Seven Innings Pitched (8.72)

T-3rd in Saves (5)

4h in Strikeouts (242)

T-8th in Appearances (44)

T-8th in Games Started (32)

Single Game Record for Strikeouts (15 vs. Bowling Green on February 22 and

   vs. UNC Greensboro on March 21

 

Tara Tembey

3rd in hits (75)

7th in at bats (219)

8th in total bases (113)

9th in stolen bases (13, 13-15)

 

Laci Upchurch

T-10th in home runs (9)

 

Career Records Set or Extended in 2008

 

Katie Blevins

T-9th in home runs (13 13 in 2008)

 

Michelle Fuzzard

6th in batting average (.356 - .356 in 2008)

8th in on-base percentage (.414 - .414 in 2008)

 

Kaitlin Holloway

9th in strikeouts per seven innings (5.75 5.75 in 2008)

 

Toni Hutchison

4th in assists (417 - 121 in 2008)

T-6th in sacrifice flies (6 3 in 2008)

7th in runs batted in (93 - 36 in 2008)

10th in doubles (31 - 11 in 2008)

 

Kandice Irwin

4th in strikeouts per seven innings (6.78 6.78 in 2008)

 

Brooke Loudermilk

1st in most strikeouts per seven innings pitched (8.80 8.72 in 2008)

T-3rd in Saves (7 5 in 2008)

4th in opposing batting average (.191 - .189 in 2008)

5th in strikeouts (532 242 in 2008)

7th in complete games (37 15 in 2008)

7th in innings pitched (423 194.1 in 2008)

8th in wins (40 18 in 2008)

8th in appearances (79 44 in 2008)

8th in games started (57 32 in 2008)

8th in shutouts (12 5 in 2008)

 

Tara Tembey

2nd in triples (17 4 in 2008)

2nd in at bats (798 219 in 2008)

T-2nd in walks (92 11 in 2008)

3rd in hits (245 75 in 2008)

3rd in total bases (381 113 in 2008)

T-3rd in runs batted in (121 29 in 2008)

T-3rd in home runs (23 7 in 2008)

4th in games played (260 63 in 2008)

T-4th in stolen bases (32, 32-40)

6th in runs scored (147 37 in 2008)

T-6th in doubles (35 9 in 2008)

 

Laci Upchurch

T-3rd in home runs (23 9 in 2008)

 

Awards and Recognition

 

Frank Reed, Head Coach

2008 Southern Conference Coach of the Year

 

Brooke Loudermilk

Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I South Region All-District Second Team

ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District Third Team

Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year (Second Consecutive)

Southern Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player

Southern Conference Pitcher of the Month for March

Three-time Southern Conference Pitcher of the Week

 

Tara Tembey

Southern Conference All-Tournament Team

 

Laci Upchurch

Southern Conference All-Tournament Team

 

Tiffany Baker

Southern Conference All-Tournament Team

 

Katie Blevins

Southern Conference Player of the Week for February 25

 

Kaitlin Holloway

Southern Conference Pitcher of the Week for April 14

 

Lady Mocs in the National Rankings

 

Both as a team and individually, Chattanooga was very visible in the NCAA’s National Rankings.

 

Team Rankings

Fielding Percentage (.975) 11th

Home runs per game (0.81) 37th

Winning Percentage (.651) 46th

Slugging Percentage (.419) 54th

Earned Run Average (2.47) 72nd

Triples Per Game (0.17) 84th

Scoring (4.17) 88th

Batting Average (.271) 94th

 

Individual Rankings

 

Brooke Loudermilk

Saves (5) 10th

Strikeouts per seven innings (8.7) 28th

Earned Run Average (1.87) 70th

Victories (18) 76th

 

Kandice Irwin

Strikeouts per seven innings (6.8) 100th

 

Toni Hutchison

Sacrifice Flies (3) 85th

 

 

The Walk-Off

Chattanooga wraps up its 15th season with the sixth NCAA Tournament appearance, 10th regular season Southern Conference title, ninth Southern Conference Tournament championship and the seventh best winning percentage in the history of the program.

 

Additionally, this year’s version of the Lady Mocs hit more home runs, 51, than any other team in program history as they surpassed the 2006 team’s record of 46.

 

Next season, Chattanooga returns 17 of the 20 players on this year’s team, including the entire pitching staff, three of four starting infielders and the entire starting outfield.

 

 

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