The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team opened its 2012 home schedule Friday with two wins on the opening day of the Frost Classic at Warner Park.
The Lady Mocs (6-4) beat Valparaiso 7-0 and won 5-3 over Niagara. The games were the first official Frost Stadium contests for several new UTC players after the departure of six senior starters from 2011.
"I think it's awesome to be on our home field," junior first baseman Kasey Tydingco said. "A lot has changed this year. We have a whole new team and we've been on the road for the last couple of weekends, so it's nice to be home on our turf."
UTC's offense got off to a fast start Friday. Junior second baseman Sara Poteat continued her hot early season by leading off the game against Valparaiso with a single and a stolen base, and she scored on freshman Cheyenne Willis' first college home run to give the Lady Mocs a 2-0 lead after the first two at-bats of the game.
UTC led 6-0 after two innings, including a home run by Vivian Morimoto.
Poteat, who is batting .500 through the first 10 games, said she's felt comfortable to start the season despite moving up to leadoff.
"I feel fine there; it doesn't really feel any different," she said "I don't think it really matters where I hit in the lineup. It doesn't change my mental aspect, but I feel confident there."
Senior Michelle Fuzzard pitched the complete-game shutout against Valparaiso, allowing four hits with four strikeouts.
Against Niagara, UTC again scored early thanks to Poteat. She walked to lead off the game, stole second and came home on the play courtesy of two throwing errors.
Niagara evened the score at 1 in the fourth inning, but UTC reclaimed the lead on an RBI hit by Ninjja Suetsugu in the bottom of the inning and added a three-run homer by Tyndingco in the fifth.
Freshman pitcher Taylor Deason started against Niagara and continued her impressive first season of college softball. She allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out a career-high nine batters to pick up her fourth win of the season.
Deason said she and the other new Lady Mocs know a lot is expected of them quickly.
"It's a lot of pressure on our backs, because we have big shoes to fill," she said. "I feel like everyone is playing their role. We're working really hard and staying positive."
Fuzzard went 4-for-5 to improve her team-leading batting average to .520, and Poteat was 4-for-7 in the two wins.
UTC coach Frank Reed said he's generally pleased with the start his team has gotten off to, although he'd prefer to see fewer fielding mistakes and more consistency on offense.
"We can be pretty good little softball team if we just play consistent," he said. "We have the people to maybe put some numbers up similar to what we did last year."
The 12-team Frost Classic continues today at several fields at Warner Park. UTC will take on East Tennessee State at 1:15 p.m. at Frost Stadium, followed by a matchup with Big Ten member Purdue at 3:30.
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 ...