The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team started Saturday's Southern Conference doubleheader against UNC Greensboro well, and the afternoon also ended on a high point. What happened in between was quite an adventure for the consistently inconsistent Lady Mocs.
UTC squandered leads of 6-0 and 7-2 in an 8-7 loss in the first game before edging the Spartans 6-5.
The Lady Mocs (25-21, 9-8) struck early in the first game, scoring six runs on six hits in the bottom of the first inning with Alyssa Taylor, Kasey Tydingco and Sarah Beth Robers getting run-scoring hits.
From there, UTC's offense went into hibernation except for a sacrifice fly by catcher Anyssa Robles to score Sara Poteat in the sixth inning.
"We came out ready to play and scored six runs, and then I think they thought six runs were going to be fine," said UTC coach Frank Reed. "At this level, you're never guaranteed anything. That's a good ballclub that hits the ball very well."
UTC's inability to add to the lead gave UNCG (33-12, 10-6) the opening it needed. The Spartans scored twice in the sixth and then erupted for six runs in the seventh with center fielder Allison Geiner's two-run hit putting her team ahead.
"I thought we had the game in the bag, and I'm sure everyone else did with six runs in the first inning," Tydingco said. "We still had opportunities where we could have taken advantage and put the game away, but unfortunately with the game of softball things like that can happen.
"It's just one of those games where it was so close but so far."
Reed said he was frustrated with his team's collapse in game one, the latest setback in an up-and-down season.
"We can't get any consistency, and that's just what we've been getting," he said. "I really didn't know what to say. I had said everything I thought I needed to say to get us ready for the game."
Freshman Sam Taylor said the collapse in game one was a wake-up call for the Lady Mocs.
"We've been struggling in the seventh inning, and I think we stepped up when we got back in the locker room," she said. "This has happened multiple times this year, and we need to learn from it so it won't happen again."
In the second game, the Lady Mocs again jumped out, scoring six runs in the first three innings for a 6-2 lead. Taylor hit an RBI double in the second inning to extend her hitting streak to 12 games. The former Gordon Lee standout was 3-for-6 for the day as the team's leadoff hitter and has raised her batting average to .306 for the season.
"She's found her way," Reed said. "I knew she was a good hitter when she got here. ... The more hits she gets, the stronger she gets and the more confidence she builds.
"Hopefully she'll continue to hit like that and we'll get everybody to catch up with her."
UNCG again came charging back with a run in the fourth inning and two more on a home run by Katelyn Bedwell in the fifth to cut UTC's lead to a single run.
After that, sophomore pitcher Taylor Deason bounced back from her first-game loss to pick up the save with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Bedwell had a chance to tie the game with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but she hit into a double play to end the game. It was the sixth double play the Lady Mocs turned Saturday, a rare feat in college softball.
"Any time you can turn a double play in fastpitch softball it's pretty cool," Reed said. "It really gives you a momentum boost, and it couldn't have come at a better time in that second game.
"Six double plays in a doubleheader is almost unheard of. It's got to be close to our record."
UTC will take on the Spartans again today in the final game of the series with the first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m.
Contact Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6478.