Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press UTC's Jessica Traxler slides safely past UT Martin shortstop Jenny Bain during their game at Frost Stadium on Sunday. UTC defeated UT Martin, 8-2.
On a cloudy day at Jim Frost Stadium, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team wrapped up a perfect weekend of play with another early offensive outburst and its 11th consecutive victory.
The Lady Mocs (12-3) jumped on UT-Martin for five first-inning runs and cruised to a fairly easy 8-2 win Sunday in their final game at the Frost Classic.
UTC’s offense has been outstanding during the current win streak, with the team hitting .371 with 16 home runs while outscoring opponents 91-26.
Junior pitcher Michelle Fuzzard earned the win for UTC, improving her record to 6-1 on the season. She allowed four hits and two runs over four innings and struck out two before giving way to Kandice Irwin, who pitched three scoreless innings to earn her fourth save of the season.
“Fuzzard did a great job,” said UTC coach Frank Reed. “And we’ve got that combo to put together with her and Kandice, so why not use it? When you get down to the last three innings and can give it to Kandice, it’s like rolling on into the house.”
Irwin’s save Sunday was the 17th of her career, moving her ahead of former Tennessee All-American Monica Abbott and into a tie for 15th on the NCAA leader board for career saves.
Third baseman Tiffany Baker wrapped up a breakout weekend against UT-Martin by going 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Baker hit a team-best .727 over the five games of the Frost Classic with two home runs and four RBIs.
First baseman Kasey Tydingco and center fielder Lauren Flores each added two hits for the Lady Mocs, who outhit UT-Martin 11 to six.
Flores, a senior from Fort Oglethorpe, is second on the team in batting with a .452 average so far this season, but she said that she hasn’t paid particular attention to individual statistics.
“This year I’m really not focused on my batting average at all,” she said. “I’m just kind of working on putting the ball in play. I’ve really worked on my mechanics as a hitter, so I think it’s really just all the work that I’ve put toward hitting.”
UTC opened the game with a different look on the infield Sunday. Usual starting shortstop Jessica Traxler was held out of the starting lineup for violating team rules, forcing Reed to move Sara Poteat from second base to shortstop and give senior pitcher Nikki Waters what was likely her first college start at second base.
Traxler was put in the game in the fifth inning and she made her presence felt with a solo home run in the bottom of the inning.
“The lineup change was purely my fault,” she said. “I violated a team rule and had to take my punishment.
“I just used it as motivation because if I had come in and played bad, it would have looked even worse on me. So I had my mindset right that I was going to come in and show people that I can play and that my skills were not the reason I didn’t start.”
UTC will be back in action this weekend for five games at the Bulldog Invitational in Athens, Ga., beginning with a game Friday morning against Indiana, followed later in the weekend with a pair of games against Campbell as well as matchups with James Madison and Georgia, which is ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/NFCA coaches Top 25 poll.
Flores said the team is looking forward to its next challenge and that she believes the Lady Mocs have the talent to compete with anyone.
“When our team is on the field, we’re really unstoppable. Our pitchers are doing great and our hitters are doing phenomenal right now. We know that we’re going to put runs on the board.”
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...