The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team flirted with disaster for much of Sunday's game against Western Carolina, and it almost cost them dearly.
But thanks to some timely hitting and a couple of lucky breaks, the Lady Mocs came away with a 5-4 win in eight innings to complete the Southern Conference series sweep. Despite getting 16 hits, UTC stranded 14 baserunners to put unneeded pressure on the pitching and defense.
"With 14 runners left on base, we should have destroyed them early, and we just didn't do it and let them hang around," UTC coach Frank Reed said after the game. "If we're up four, five, six runs, we can experiment with a pitch, but we were hanging on every pitch."
Despite getting 11 hits through the first six innings, UTC (27-13, 11-2 SoCon) held just a 2-0 lead heading into the top of the seventh thanks to a solid outing from senior pitcher Michelle Fuzzard through six innings.
"We didn't jump on the hitting as quickly and often as we usually do," said center fielder Cheyenne Willis, who had two hits for UTC. "We should have strung hits together rather than when the bases are loaded leaving runners on base. We should have probably scored a lot more runs."
With the game still close in the seventh inning, WCU came to life with home runs from Haley Pace and Erin Foster to take a 3-2 lead heading into the bottom of the inning.
With their backs to the wall, the Lady Mocs finally got its offense going, tying the game in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single by Ninjja Suetsugu to send the game to extra innings.
The Catamounts (16-29, 3-12) reclaimed the lead in the top of the eighth inning when pinch runner Bekah Burkettt scored on a throwing error by UTC firstbaseman Kasey Tydingco, but the Lady Mocs retied the game on a RBI single by Willis and loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning on three hits and an error. WCU pitcher Jordan Garerett hit Vivian Morimoto with a pitch to drive in Cheyenne with the winning run and end the game.
Freshman pitcher Taylor Deason picked up the win with one inning of relief, allowing one run on two hits.
Fuzzard and right fielder Stephanie Rieck each had three hits for UTC, and Morimoto had three RBIs.
After the game Fuzzard was quick to give credit to Western Carolina for putting pressure on UTC.
"That's the best Western Carolina team that I've seen in my five years here," she said. "You've got to give them some credit that physically they were a better team [than in recent years].
"But it doesn't matter if we're home or away, the other team is going to try and rise up and beat us because of who we are."
UTC is back in action Wednesday with a nonconference doubleheader at home against UAB before hitting the road this weekend for a three-game SoCon series at Samford.
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 ...