It happened so fast.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball season ended Saturday with a 7-6 loss to College of Charleston in the Southern Conference tournament losers-bracket final in Boone, N.C.
The second-seeded Lady Mocs (39-16) built a 6-0 lead in the sixth inning and were up 6-5 needing one out to set up a rematch with top-seeded Georgia Southern for the championship, but back-to-back errors allowed two unearned runs to score and send the Cougars to the title game.
Charleston won the first game against the Eagles, but GSU won the deciding game to win the tournament title and advance to the NCAA tournament.
"It seems like it all happened in the blink of an eye," UTC junior shortstop Sara Poteat said. "We were up six runs, and we were feeling great and cruising. Then, boom, we're down. How did they come back? How did they get these bloop hits? How did we not make the plays? I don't know. It's shocking."
UTC senior Michelle Fuzzard and Charleston's Stephanie Saylors were impressive in the pitching circle for the first five innings, and the game was scoreless heading to the sixth. Saylors didn't allow a hit until a single by Vivian Morimoto in the fifth inning, and Fuzzard allowed just two hits through five innings.
Everything changed in the sixth. The Lady Mocs scored their six runs on six hits in the top of the inning, with first baseman Kasey Tydingco hitting a two-run home run and sophomore right fielder Stephanie Rieck knocking in two more runs with a double.
"We started a little slow, but we knew we could hit off of her," Rieck said. "We just needed to hit the ball into the right spots and holes in the defense. We finally started to do that."
Charleston responded in the bottom of the inning, scoring five runs on six hits against Fuzzard and freshman Taylor Deason to cut the margin to one heading to the final inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Deason allowed a single by Ashton Jarrett but also had two strikeouts and appeared set to close out the win when Cougars catcher Mackenzie Maples grounded slowly to UTC third baseman Sarah Beth Roberts.
Roberts' throw couldn't be fielded by Tydingco at first, allowing Jarrett to score the tying run, and Tydingco's fielding error on the next play allowed Amanda Lonegran to reach and Jarrett to score the winning run and end UTC's season.
The loss ended the careers of seniors Fuzzard, Morimoto and Jessica Traxler. The trio accounted for 42 of the Lady Mocs' 66 home runs this season, and each had more than 60 RBIs in 2012.
"I feel bad for the seniors," UTC coach Frank Reed said. "All three of them had a good year, but now it's over. I've been here for 11 years and it's hard. I get to come back and do it again, but those seniors don't."
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 ...