TUSCALOOSA, Ala. --- Pitching was the order of the day in the opening game of the Tuscaloosa Regional as the Chattanooga softball team (30-23) dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Texas (39-18) in nine innings. UTC’s Brooke Loudermilk (8-2) and the Longhorns’ Brittany Barnhill (25-13) battled the entire contest as the two combined for 15 strikeouts and allowed only nine hits and two walks.
The Longhorn sophomore was also the offensive hero, driving in the game’s lone run with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
Barnhill was unhittable for the first eight innings of the contest until Lyndsey Stiles broke up the no-hit bid with an infield single in the top of the ninth. Loudermilk went stride-for-stride with the Barnhill though, as the junior struck out 10 and lowered her ERA to a team-low 1.91.
To go along with the loss, the Lady Mocs were dealt a big blow in the bottom of the third inning as All-Southern Conference performer Tiffany Baker reinjured her already fractured right ankle. Baker collided with rightfielder Kaiti Kelley on a soft popup off the bat of Amy Hooks and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
The single was the game’s first hit and Hooks was able to advance to second on the play. Loudermilk was unfazed by the leadoff single however the junior retired the next three Longhorn batters to leave Hooks stranded at second.
Texas would scatter singles in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, but Loudermilk and the UTC defense continued to put the Longhorns away. Catcher Brittany Eason erased one of the UT singles by throwing out Kacie Gaskin on a steal attempt in the sixth inning.
The only Lady Mocs’ rally came in the top of the ninth when Tia Blosser was hit by a pitch to put a runner on first with one out. Up next came Stiles and the sophomore would put runners at first and second with an infield single to first base. With two on and one out, Kaiti Kelley was next to the plate and promptly loaded the bases with a single into rightfield.
That would be all Barnhill allowed however as she was able to escape the jam by striking out Michelle Fuzzard and getting Lauren Flores to ground into a fielder’s choice.
In the bottom of the ninth, Loudermilk continued to shine as the righty quickly retired the first two batters of the inning. Chattanooga was unable to get out of the inning in order though as Alexis Bennett spoiled UTC’s hopes with a two-out single. Bennett then left the game for pinch-runner Raygan Feight, who then stole a base to give Texas a runner in scoring position.
Nadia Taylor would draw a walk to put runners at first and second before Barnhill hit a weak liner in front of a diving Lauren Flores to win the game for the Longhorns.
The Lady Mocs will now play Mississippi Valley State at 5 p.m. EDT on Saturday. Live stats and streaming video will be available at GoMocs.com.
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