For the second year in a row, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team is looking to South Beach and South America to help the Lady Mocs as they seek a sixth consecutive Southern Conference championship in 2012.
Simone "Ninja" Suetsugu, a middle infielder from Sao Paulo, Brazil, has signed with UTC after playing her first two seasons at junior college power Miami-Dade Community College.
"She is a great player defensively. I don't know that I have seen anybody with such soft hands," UTC coach Frank Reed said in a release. "She is a middle infielder that understands how to play the position. ... She really understands what needs to happen there and hits the ball really well."
Suetsugu batted .370 in her two seasons at Miami-Dade and knocked in 41 runs in 2010, when the Sharks won the junior college national championship. She took a redshirt year last season to work on her academics before transferring to UTC.
Suetsugu will join fellow Brazilian and former Miami-Dade teammate Vivian Morimoto at UTC. Morimoto, a catcher who led the Lady Mocs with a .402 batting average in her first NCAA season in 2011, said she is looking forward to having her friend join her in Chattanooga.
"She's like a sister to me and lives with my family when we are in Brazil," Morimoto said. "We have talked every week, and I have been telling her about UTC and how things are done here."
Morimoto said she thinks she will be able to help Suetsugu make the transition to NCAA Division I softball, which wasn't as easy as Morimoto thought it would be when she came to UTC last summer.
"When I came here I thought I'd be the best because I had just won a national championship," Morimoto said. "But then when I got here I saw that everybody here was good.
"I've told [Suetsugu] that she will need to be ready to work hard to play at this level."
UTC junior catcher Jenni Martin has decided to leave the Lady Mocs softball team and forgo her final year of eligibility to concentrate on finishing school.
Martin, who played high school ball at Ringgold, made the 2009 Southern Conference all-freshman team as a designated player but had seen her playing time decrease the past two seasons. She had one home run in 2011, a three-run shot against Western Carolina in the final game of the regular season.
She is on track to finish her course work at UTC in December, and she said she hopes to get an internship in the spring with a Major League Baseball team or at the Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World in Florida.
"I will always be extremely grateful to Coach Reed for even giving me this opportunity and having an amazing three years," Martin said by email. "I was on three championship teams that got to play at regionals two times, so I can't complain too much about that."
Contact Jim Tanner at email@example.com or 423-757-6478.