UTC softball falls to Alabama in NCAA regional final

UTC softball falls to Alabama in NCAA regional final

May 23rd, 2011 by Jim Tanner in Sports - College

The run finally came to an end for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team.

No. 2 overall seed Alabama beat the Lady Mocs 11-2 in six innings on Sunday in the finals of the Tuscaloosa Regional to advance to the Super Regional round and end UTC's season at 44-14.

Alabama pitcher Kelsi Dunne pitched five shutout innings, allowing only a fifth-inning single by UTC third baseman Tiffany Baker, to pick up her 25th win of the season.

"I think that she mixed up all of her pitches well," UTC senior center fielder Lyndsey Stiles said following the loss. "She had us guessing for the most part. I think we were going up to the plate thinking not to guess, but they changed the pitches up so well during the game, and we never knew what was coming."

The Crimson Tide (48-8) used their speed to score three runs in the first inning. Kayla Braud was hit by a pitch from UTC starter Kandice Irwin, stole second, advanced to third on a single by Jennifer Fenton and scored Alabama's first run when Fenton stole second. Fenton later stole third, and she ended the day with three steals.

Irwin left the game in the first inning after being hit in the head by a ball off the bat of Jazlyn Lunceford, but Irwin was able to return and pitch in the sixth inning.

"Going into this game, we knew that it was going to be tough," sophomore first baseman Kasey Tydingco said. "There was no doubt in our team that we could hang with them. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we thought we could have caught back up."

UTC pitcher Nikki Waters kept the game close until the fifth inning when the Lady Mocs gave up four runs, with the big hit coming on a three-run home run by Alabama first baseman Amanda Locke. Alabama added four more runs in the sixth to take an 11-0 lead.

Locke finished the game 2-for-3, and Fenton and Lunceford also had two hits each. Shortstop Whitney Larsen led the Crimson Tides' 12-hit performance by going 3-for-4 in the win.

The Lady Mocs advanced to their first NCAA regional final this season, and the team set multiple team and individual offensive records in 2011. UTC's winning percentage of .773 this season is the best in the program's 18-year history.

"You can't say enough about what the team has done this year and the records they put up," UTC coach Frank Reed said. "It's a building block for the things that we want to do in the future, and I think that you will see Chattanooga in a regional in the future and hopefully the supers."

The Lady Mocs refused to go quietly in the bottom of the sixth inning. Shortstop Jessica Traxler and senior left fielder Lauren Flores led off the inning with singles off of Alabama reliever Lauren Sewell, and they both scored on a double by Stiles in her final college at bat before Alabama ended the game by striking out Sara Poteat and Baker before getting catcher Vivian Morimoto to ground out to second base.

"For me being a senior, my last at bat, I was thinking, 'Don't strike out. Don't go out that way,'" said Stiles, a former Soddy-Daisy standout. "So it was huge for me to step up, and for my team to put some runs on the board and that's what we did."