Momentum is a good thing, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team has it right now.
After losing their first five games of the 2014 season, the Lady Mocs have gone 5-1. They won their first two home games Friday in the Frost Classic at Jim Frost Stadium.
UTC (5-6) edged Butler 3-1 and wrapped up the tournament's first day by beating Northwestern State 5-2 on a chilly and clear night.
After a solid performance last weekend at a tournament in Las Vegas, UTC coach Frank Reed felt his young team did what it had to do to keep things rolling.
"I didn't think we were as sharp as we were in Las Vegas, but we continue to be sharp enough to win," he said. "As long as we can do that we can still built confidence and momentum, and that's what we're looking to do right now."
UTC struck early against Butler with a Sarah Beth Roberts hit that scored Sam Taylor and Alyssa Taylor in the bottom of the third inning, then added another run on a single by senior outfielder Kaiti Dutton.
That was all the offense the UTC pitching staff needed. Freshman Liana Rodrigues started and allowed one hit and two walks in 1 2/3 innings before being relieved by junior Taylor Deason, who finished the game and picked up the victory. Deason allowed one hit and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings, although Butler did get an unearned run in the seventh inning.
"I felt really strong. I think our defense did excellent," Deason said. "We had a few errors, but we really picked it up when we needed to and had some clutch hits when we needed to. I felt strong knowing that my defense was behind me."
Deason had been primarily used as a starter in previous seasons, but she's been used more in a relief role this season. Six of her eight appearances this season have been out of the bullpen.
"It's been an adjustment, but whatever is going to help our team," she said. "We have four good pitchers this year, so I know I'm going to have to do this or that.
"I don't feel like I'm going to get stuck in one role, but whatever helps our team I'm going to do that."
University of Georgia transfer Criket Blanco powered the Lady Mocs in the win over Northwestern State. The shortstop hit her first home run of the season -- a two-run shot in the first inning -- and finished with three RBIs.
"I haven't been hitting very well, but everyone's been telling me to stay calm and keep swinging," Blanco said. "And tonight it was there, so I just hit it."
Alyssa Taylor had two hits against Northwestern State. Dutton had a hit in both games.
UTC will be back in action in the Frost Classic today at 4 p.m. against Radford, followed by a 6:30 game against Toledo.
Reed said he still may look to make adjustments to his lineup throughout the weekend as he looks for the right combination to keep developing his team.
"I've got kids that probably deserve a chance and they're not getting them," he said. "Sometimes you just go with your gut on who you think is going to be the best that day. Sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong, and they don't pay me to be wrong."
Contact Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6478. Follow him on Twitter at @JFTanner.
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 ...