published Friday, February 21st, 2014

Softball Mocs ready for home tournament

UTC AT THE FROST CLASSIC

All UTC games played at Jim Frost Stadium

Today

4 p.m. -- UTC vs. Butler

6:30 p.m. -- UTC vs. Northwestern State

Saturday

4 p.m. -- UTC vs. Radford

6:30 p.m. -- UTC vs. Toledo

Sunday

1:30 p.m. -- UTC vs. Campbell

After a bumpy opening weekend followed by a promising trip to Las Vegas, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team is ready to make its home debut for 2014.

The Lady Mocs (3-6) will open play as the host team of the Frost Classic today at 4 p.m. against Butler, followed by a 6:30 game against Northwestern State.

The 10-team tournament will begin at 11 a.m., and there will be 25 games played over three days at Jim Frost Stadium and two other fields at Warner Park. Single-day passes for all games are $8 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.

"The Frost Classic sort of kicks off the softball season for Chattanooga," UTC coach Frank Reed said in a university release. "Even though the team has played two tournaments coming in, it's the first chance for Chattanooga fans to see the team play at home."

UTC opened the season by going 0-4 at the UCF Knights Invitational in Orlando, Fla., and the team struggled in all aspects, committing 13 errors in the first three games and allowing opponent to have eight-, six- and four-run innings.

The Lady Mocs showed signs of turning things around in a 1-0 loss to Kansas in the final game in Orlando, and they carried that momentum into last weekend's UNLV Easton Desert Classic in Las Vegas. UTC went 3-2 in the desert with quality wins over BYU, Nevada and Portland State and narrow losses to Boise State and 10th-ranked Oregon.

Katie Henderson, a new UTC pitcher after transferring from Kentucky, said she and her teammates are pleased with their progress thus far.

"I think the first weekend, we weren't playing together as a team," she said. "This past weekend in Vegas I felt like we really came together on offense, defense and pitching. I think it was really encouraging just to see us go out there and fight."

Sophomore outfielder Sam Taylor was one of several UTC players who had a strong Vegas showing. The Lady Mocs' leadoff hitter was 9-for-18 with three doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored in the Easton tournament, and she was named Southern Conference player of the week.

"I think it being so warm helped me, with it not being freezing outside," she said. "I just needed to turn it on for my team and put my nose down and produce."

While the Las Vegas trip was encouraging for the Lady Mocs, Reed said he and his staff are still working to see which lineup will work best over the season and that there may be a few stumbles before SoCon play begins March 15 at Appalachian State.

"There's still some experimentation going on," he said. "You look at weekend one and wonder what's going on, and then after the second weekend you may think, 'Oh, they've got it all together now,' but it's not that simple. There may still be some weekend-one games before we're where we want to be."

But this weekend is about the Lady Mocs introducing themselves to their home fans. Henderson, who played high school softball at Silverdale Baptist Academy, said she's happy to be back home and is looking forward to playing her first home games for UTC.

"It's been great so far," she said. "I've really enjoyed being able to represent Chattanooga, my hometown, so it's been a great experience so far.

"I'm excited to be at home [for the Frost Classic]. I think if we play like we did in Vegas we'll put on a good show for our fans."

Contact Jim Tanner at jtanner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6478.

about Jim Tanner...

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 ...

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