While winning the Southern Conference softball championship remained her top goal, designated player Michelle Fuzzard had a little something else she wanted to prove to the league in her final season.
The 2011 SoCon player of the year, Fuzzard was only a second-team 2012 preseason selection as a pitcher and utility player. She felt she deserved more respect after helping lead the Lady Mocs to their fifth straight SoCon title and an NCAA regional appearance last year.
"I know that people aren't going to expect that much out of me pitching-wise, but I'm not used to being doubted for my hitting," she said Monday by phone from Boone, N.C., where the Lady Mocs are preparing for the conference tournament to begin play Wednesday. "So I really accepted that challenge and was gunning for it this year."
Fuzzard emphatically made her point and was selected the SoCon player of the year for the second straight year in a vote by the league's nine coaches, leading a record nine Lady Mocs selected for all-conference honors.
Fuzzard led the SoCon with 61 RBIs and was second in the league in batting average (.424) and slugging percentage (.824) for second-place UTC, which was 20-2 in league play. She also had 14 home runs, 10 of those in SoCon games.
Joining Fuzzard from UTC on the All-SoCon first team were senior catcher Vivian Morimoto, junior first baseman Kasey Tydingco and junior second baseman Sara Poteat, who had a league-high .448 batting average.
Five Lady Mocs were second-team selections: senior shortstop Jessica Traxler, freshman third baseman Sarah Beth Roberts, sophomore outfielder Stephanie Rieck, freshman outfielder Cheyenne Willis and freshman pitcher Taylor Deason. Deason, Willis and Roberts also were named to the all-freshman team.
"It's pretty cool that a lot of us made the all-conference team," said Rieck, who thrived after working her way into the starting lineup early in the season and finished with a .444 average in 35 games. "It just shows that we have a great team and great girls on the team that really put up the numbers, and it shows that we can really compete and pull together for a tournament championship."
Georgia Southern's Sarah Purvis and Annie Smith were the pitcher and coach of the year, respectively. Appalachian State's Sarah Warnock was named freshman of the year.
Deason, who led the SoCon with 22 wins, said having so many Lady Mocs on the all-conference teams gives UTC a boost heading into the SoCon tournament.
"We were on the bus coming over when we found out that nine of us made it," she said. "It just really pumped us up and got us excited. We're excited to prove that we can win this thing. We want to play today."
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 ...