What a difference a day makes.
Twenty-four hours after they couldn't seem to do anything right, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team turned in an almost perfect performance on Sunday in a 6-0 win over Southern Conference foe Elon.
Junior pitcher Nikki Waters put on a stellar performance from the pitching circle, holding the Phoenix hitless into the final inning, and finishing with a complete-game one-hitter to help the Lady Mocs avoid being swept at home after losing both games of a doubleheader Saturday.
Waters also helped herself with the bat, hitting a three-run home run in the fifth inning to put the game out of reach.
With the win, UTC improves to 33-12 and 13-2 in conference to stay three games ahead of Elon (30-12, 13-5) at the top of the SoCon standings. Conference play takes on an added importance this year, as the regular season champion will get to host the four-team SoCon tournament May 13-14.
Waters, a former prep standout at Soddy-Daisy, said she felt like she was on top of her game from the beginning and was determined to help her teammates get a crucial win.
"I felt good warming up," she said. "I just knew I had to hit my spots and be on top of my game because we needed this win."
UTC coach Frank Reed said Waters' pitching was even more impressive considering how good the Phoenix offense was Saturday, when the Elon scored 10 runs on 17 hits in the doubleheader.
"(Elon) is a really good offensive team, but you see what you can do with good pitching on an offensive team," Reed said. "She shut them down to one hit and shut their big hitters down."
Despite the strong outing from Waters, the game was tied 0-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth inning. But UTC got on the board when freshman first baseman Kasey Tydingco tripled to knock in Jessica Traxler, who had led off the inning with a single.
Tydinco said she and her teammates were motivated to come out and earn the win on Sunday.
"As a team, we really wanted this bad," she said. "I was up there with a runner on second, and coach always tells us to be stingy with RBIs. She was pitching me inside, and that's my favorite."
Lyndsey Stiles followed with a single and she and Tydingco scored on a two-run single by Tia Blosser. UTC cleanup hitter Tiffany Baker was intentionally walked, setting up Waters three-run blast down the left field line to end Elon starter Erin O'Shea's outing and put the game out of reach.
"It was awesome. I'm not going to lie, it felt good," Waters said. "It was kind of an inside-middle pitch. It looked like she kind of missed, and I took it."
Despite losing the no-hitter on leadoff single to Tomeka Watson and allowing a pair of walks in the seventh, Waters finished out the game to earn her 10th win of the season.
Reed said good pitching was the difference between Saturday and Sunday and what the Lady Mocs will need to finish out the season successfully.
"The pitches that hit the spots today, missed yesterday," Reed said. "The pitchers that beat Elon, hit their spots. I think that was the key."
Another factor in Sunday's win may have been a sense of being disrespected by Elon after losing twice Saturday. Reed said Elon players posted some signs in their dugout that the Lady Mocs took offense to heading into Sunday's game.
"(Elon) helped motivate us a little bit today and put some junk up in the dugout about us," Reed said. "We try play it straight up and just motivate our kids among ourselves."
"But, you know, maybe we're not the losers with the double-O they thought that we were."