Under sunny skies and warm temperatures, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team wrapped up its fall exhibition schedule Saturday with the annual Blue-Gold game.
The game -- which was won 5-4 by the Blue team -- gave the coaches one final look at the Lady Mocs in a game situation. With nine new players on the team, including five freshmen, the building process is still a work in progress.
"You think you have some ideas about what you're going to do, but after today you're still scratching your head," head coach Frank Reed said. "We may still have some position changes to make before spring.
"We'll be all right. We might be all right with just 10 players, but we'll be all right."
The freshman class has a strong local flavor, with Savannah Goldsmith and Jesslyn Stockard (Heritage), Victoria Hunter (LaFayette) and Liana Rodrigues (CSAS) having played high school ball in the Chattanooga area. In addition, junior Marina Wilkerson played the last two seasons at Chattanooga State and Kentucky transfer Katie Henderson played prep softball at Silverdale Baptist Academy.
The Lady Mocs will open the 2014 regular season Feb. 7-9 at the UCF Knights Invitational in Orlando and will travel to Las Vegas the following weekend for the UNLV Easton Desert Classic before opening their home schedule Feb 21-13 as the host team of the Frost Classic. UTC will play Butler, Northwestern State, Radford, Toledo and Campbell in the Frost Classic and has other nonconference home game scheduled against Lipscomb, Tennessee Tech and Middle Tennessee.
The Southern Conference schedule begins March 15 at Appalachian State, and the conference tournament will run May 7-10 in Greensboro, N.C.
The 2014 Lady Mocs will have four seniors, but only Stephanie Rieck and Kaiti Dutton return as four-year UTC players looking to end their college careers as they started -- as SoCon champions.
"It went good," Rieck said of the fall. "We all have some things we need to work on, but we have a lot of heart and hard workers on this team who want to get better and play well.
"We definitely have a lot of new faces, but we just brought them right into the family and are learning a lot about the new girls. We've meshed pretty well on defense. ... We need to work on our hitting and getting our bats going."
Goldsmith, who had a long double off the top of the wall in right center field Saturday, said the transition to collegiate softball has been fairly smooth so far.
"It's been a lot different [than high school], but they've made it really easy to come in and learn things," she said. "They're really good teammates and make sure the freshmen know what to do, and they don't really treat us like freshmen. So it's been a lot easier than I thought, but there's been some challenges as well."
Contact Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6478.
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 ...