No. 1 Chattanooga vs. No. 4 CofC
Statesboro, Ga. (Eagle Field)
STATESBORO, Ga. - The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team claimed its eleventh Southern Conference Tournament title Saturday at Eagle Field with an 11-2 victory after five innings over the College of Charleston. Sophomore second baseman Sara Poteat (Thomaston, Ga.) was named the tournament's most outstanding player, while seniors Della Harrison (Nashville, Tenn.) and Nikki Waters (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) and juniors Michelle Fuzzard (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Vivian Morimoto (Sao Paulo, Brazil) were also selected to all-tournament team.
The Lady Mocs (42-12) earned the SoCon's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in 12 years and will find out their destination for regionals on Sunday at 10 p.m. on ESPNU. The softball team will gather at Taco Mac in downtown Chattanooga that night beginning at 9:30 p.m.
Chattanooga rebounded after falling behind 2-0 in the second and scored 11 unanswered runs to clinch the victory over the Cougars.
Coming in relief of the starter Fuzzard, Waters was stellar for the third time in the tournament in picking up her third win and is now 13-3 on the season. Waters allowed only one hit in four innings pitched, while striking out seven of the 14 batters she faced.
The Lady Mocs offense avenged a sweep earlier this season at Charleston by banging out 12 hits and scoring 11 runs on the trip of Stephanie Saylors, SoCon Pitcher of the Year Alexa Datko and Jen Rosen. Morimoto paced the team with three hits, while senior outfielders Lyndsey Stiles (Hixson, Tenn.) and Lauren Flores and junior shortstop Jessica Traxler (Chino Hills, Calif.) each notched two base knocks.
Driving in three runs each were Fuzzard and Traxler. Morimoto had a key two-RBI double that put the Lady Mocs in the lead during the fourth.
In the second, Woodall started off Charleston with a single up the middle and a fielder's choice failed to get the lead runner put a runner in scoring position. A walk loaded the bases and head coach Frank Reed went to his bullpen for Waters.
Retiring the first two outs of the frame was Waters with a strikeout and foul out to third baseman Baker. Lizzy Vaughn put the Cougars up 2-0 with a single up the middle as second baseman Poteat just missed making a fantastic diving catch behind second. Waters was able to get out of the jam with a strikeout looking.
Leading off the second for the Lady Mocs was Morimoto with a single down the left field line. After a fielder's choice on an unsuccessful sacrifice bunt retired the go-ahead runner, Harrison moved sophomore first baseman Kasey Tydingco (Fairfield, Calif.) to second. A single from Traxler into center drove in the first run for the Lady Mocs cutting the deficit to 2-1.
In the third, Stiles singled down the line past the third baseman and Poteat beat out an infield single in front of the plate. A four-pitch walk to Fuzzard loaded the bases and a sacrifice fly by Baker tied the game at two. The tie lasted one pitch as Morimoto deposited a double off the fence in left center allowing the Lady Mocs to take a 4-2 lead.
Traxler started the fourth with single to center, then Flores connected on a hit to left. A Stiles single up the middle added an insurance run. The back breaker for the Cougars came on the first pitch to Fuzzard, who crushed the ball over the fence in center putting the Lady Mocs up 8-2.
The Lady Mocs offense continued to roll as Morimoto singled up the middle and a walk to Tydingco put a runner in scoring position. Harrison singled up the middle driving in a run and advanced to second on the throw to the plate, 9-2.
The Cougars defense, which was flawless in the regular season against the Lady Mocs, made a costly mistake as the throw from the shortstop was dropped by the first baseman on a ball hit by Traxler. The error allowed two runs to score increasing the advantage to 11-2.
To close out the game with a run-rule victory, Waters used a strike out looking, a pop up to left field and a strike out swinging. The team mobbed the pitcher, Waters, down the third base line in front of the Lady Mocs dugout.
For five of the seniors - Baker, Flores, Harrison, Irwin and Stiles - and junior Fuzzard, it was the third SoCon Tournament Title of their careers. Those six individuals have had a storied four years at Chattanooga including a regular season championship in each season.
Notching the two hits for the Cougars was Vaughn and Kristi Woodall. The trio of Saylors, Datko and Rosen combined to strikeout two during the game.
GoMocs.com, the official website of Chattanooga Athletics, will have up-to-date information on the NCAA selection process and where the Lady Mocs will travel to in the NCAA Tournament.