After a rough start to the season, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team looks to be back on track heading into its home debut.
The Lady Mocs (4-5) started the season going 1-4 at a tournament in Florida, but they bounced back by winning three of four games at the Auburn Tiger Invitational, including a 6-4 win over previously unbeaten Auburn on Sunday.
"The first weekend was rough, but it was our first weekend out and we have a completely new team, with a lot of young players," freshman pitcher Rachel Albritton said Thursday. "But as we went on, we got a lot better and we built as a team."
UTC will open play today as the host of the 12-team Frost Classic, which runs through Sunday. UTC will be joined by Tennessee Tech, Northern Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Missouri State, Toledo, Niagara, Ohio, North Carolina Central and Lipscomb in the annual event at Warner Park.
UTC assistant coach Lindsey Ubrun said the team -- which features nine true freshmen and redshirt freshman Jenny Garcia -- has done a good job of shaking off the rough opening weekend and continuing to improve and build as a group.
"I think they're making big steps, and there was a big difference between the first weekend and this past weekend," she said. "Any time you put up a bunch of young players and you have some injuries, you're going to have some growing pains.
"I think they're finally start to figuring out their roles and what we need from each of them, and they're starting to get better and better."
Unlike previous years, this UTC team hasn't been able to rely on home runs to produce offense, instead relying on speed and timely hits to score runs. Senior first baseman Kasey Tydingco leads the Lady Mocs with a .481 average, and four other regular players are batting over .300.
"It's been a big adjustment, and Coach [Frank] Reed has done a good job of keeping the runners moving and pushing the pace," Ubrun said. "We have had some hitters come through with big hits ... so I think you're going to see hitters get better.
"The power numbers aren't there yet, but I think we have some players that are very capable."
Albritton has yet to pick up a win this season but has a 2.52 earned run average in six appearances for a UTC staff that has a team ERA of 2.48. The former all-state standout from Murfreesboro Riverdale is looking forward to her collegiate debut at Jim Frost Stadium.
"Since I'm from Tennessee, I've played on these fields forever," she said. "But for me to actually play here as a Moc is going to be very exciting.
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 ...