ORLANDO, Fla. – The Chattanooga Mocs softball team suffered back-to-back losses Friday evening in Orlando, Fla., at the UCF Knights Invitational. Fordham topped UTC 12-3 in an error-riddled performance, and South Dakota proved to be one run better than the Mocs, 5-4, in extra innings.
Coming off a 5-0 win over LIU Brooklyn, momentum helped carry Fordham over Chattanooga in the Mocs season-opener. A team Chattanooga fell to three times in 2013, the Rams triumphed again through a quick start and a handful of UTC miscues. The Mocs committed five errors over the five-inning game.
The Rams jumped out to a hot start with a four-run inning over starting pitcher Katie Henderson (Chattanooga, Tenn.). The sophomore only tossed 0.1 innings before Taylor Deason (Clarksville, Tenn.) was called on in relief. The junior was able to pitch the Mocs out of an early jam but not before Fordham pushed four runs across the plate on one hit, one error and four walks.
The Chattanooga offense answered back in the second inning with two runs, cutting the lead in half. Walks issued to Criket Blanco (Maryville, Tenn.) and Shelby Carter (Maple Valley, Wash.) got the ball rolling and a bunt-single from Sarah Beth Roberts (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) loaded the bases. Anyssa Robles (Lawrenceville, Ga.) punched her ticket with an RBI-single to right field and a bases-loaded walk to senior Kaiti Dutton (Tulsa, Okla.) gave UTC its second run.
Deason kept the Rams off in the bottom of the second, and Chattanooga tacked on a third run in the top of the third to cut the lead to one run. Blanco tripled down the right-field line on one out and a sacrifice bunt from Roberts scored the sophomore, but the third inning would be the deciding factor in the game.
With two outs on the board, back-to-back errors allowed two Fordham batters to reach base safely. Two more errors and four hits would ensue to drive in eight runs for the Rams, putting Chattanooga down 12-3. Centerfielder Sydney Canessa, who was 2-for-4 on the night with an RBI and run scored, was one of four Fordham batters to single and drive in a run during the inning.
The next two innings saw both teams go scoreless, leading to a 12-3, run-ruled game in just five innings.
“It’s disappointing,” Head Coach Frank Reed said. “Despite walking four batters and allowing four runs, our offense battled back and made it a close game. You can blame it on being our first game, but you can’t begin a game like that and put that pressure on the offense.”
Looking to bounce back in the second game against South Dakota, Chattanooga was disappointed again with an eight-inning loss after on two occasions.
The bats came out swinging in the first inning for Chattanooga as the Mocs put three quick runs in the book. With the bases loaded, Blanco delivered with a bases-clearing triple to score Sam Taylor (Chickamauga, Ga.), Alyssa Taylor (Orange, Calif.) and Marina Wilkerson (Hogansville, Ga.).
Freshman Liana Rodrigues (Chattanooga, Tenn.) was handed her first collegiate start against the Coyotes and did not disappoint. While only tossing 3.1 innings, the right-hander was very effective with five strikeouts, just two walks and three earned runs.
Trouble in the fourth caused the Mocs to go to Deason in relief. South Dakota added two runs in the top of the fourth to tie the game 3-3, taking Rodrigues out of the decision and making Deason the pitcher on record. The Mocs reclaimed the lead on an RBI-single from Blanco to score Sam Taylor who led the inning off with a double down the left-field line.
The Coyotes tied the game 4-4 in the top of the fifth when pinch runner Katelyn Wudel moved up two bases on a passed ball and throwing error, putting her in position to score on a wild pitch.
Going into extras, South Dakota took advantage of its tie-breaking-runner, Sydney Hancock, when Chattanooga committed its fourth run of the game, a throwing error, to move the runner to third. That set up the game-winning RBI-single for Christine Broders. Chattanooga was held hitless and scoreless in the bottom of the eighth.
“We can’t commit that many errors and expect to win a ball game,” Reed said. “We have to make the routine plays, and errors happen, but you can’t let them happen in those numbers.”
Chattanooga continues the UCF Knights Invitational Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. against LIU Brooklyn. The Mocs get a one-game break before taking on the hosting Knights at 1:30 p.m.