There's a lot on the line for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team heading into today's Southern Conference doubleheader against Elon.
The Lady Mocs (31-9, 12-0) will be trying to continue its undefeated run in SoCon play, but more importantly they will be trying to secure home field for the conference tournament in May.
The SoCon changed the tournament set-up last summer, switching to a four-team format with the regular-season champion serving as host. UTC holds the top spot, and the hard-hitting Phoenix (28-11, 11-4) are in second place.
"It's always fun to play at home and have your fans in the stands," UTC coach Frank Reed said. "So for our fans, it's great. And for us it's important because if we're hosting the tournament it means we won the regular-season championship."
Despite struggling at times on offense, the Lady Mocs have managed to find ways to keep winning in conference play. But Reed said Elon's offensive potential is a point of concern and strong pitching performances by UTC starters Brooke Loudermilk and Nikki Waters likely will be the key to the weekend.
"They're hitting right at .300 as a team," Reed said of the Phoenix. "And they have a couple of strong hitters with quite a few home runs. If we get good pitching, I'm OK. I need Brooke Loudermilk to show up. And I need the same thing out of Nikki."
UTC catcher Brittany Eason said the players realize they still have a lot of work to do despite their perfect conference record.
"Elon's a pretty good team, and we can't take anything lightly," Eason said. "We haven't put it all together yet. That's what we're working on -- totally dominating in pitching, hitting, everything."
Reed agrees that the Lady Mocs still have work to do to be the team he wants them to be.
"It's time for us to put some complete games together," he said. "I feel like at this point we've just been creeping by. And creeping by is good as long as you're getting the win, but you always feel like at some point it's going to catch up to you."
Today's doubleheader begins at 1 p.m. and is sponsored by 3H Group Hotels, which will give free water bottles to the first 300 spectators.