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University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball coach Frank Reed has been proclaiming this year's Lady Mocs "the best team I've ever coached" for the past two weeks.

But in the wake of Saturday's 11-2 thrashing of the College of Charleston in the Southern Conference tournament title game, he went a bit further.

"Statistically, this is the best team in the history of the conference," said Reed, now in his 10th season. "We've really been putting some big numbers up."

"Big" went out the window weeks ago. What these Lady Mocs already have accomplished as they gather at 10 tonight inside Taco Mac to find out where they'll open NCAA tournament play is huge, gigantic, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Especially when they're up to bat. Through 27 league games this season (24 of them wins, including their 4-0 SoCon tourney record), UTC averaged 8.1 runs a contest while surrendering but 2.3.

If the New York Yankees are the Bronx Bombers, the Lady Mocs have become the 'Nooga Napalmers.

"We were pressing early in the year instead of playing loose," senior outfielder Della Harrison said over the phone Saturday as the team prepared to board the bus home from the Georgia Southern campus in Statesboro, Ga.

"But the coaches started convincing us to go up there with a plan. It's all about mechanics - where your front shoulder is, waiting for your pitch, be patient, stuff like that. It's all about learning the proper way to hit the heck out of the ball."

Consider Harrison at the top of that list after swatting a home run in each of UTC's first two tourney wins on her way to making the all-tournament team.

And to think her father, former NFL star Dennis Harrison, had to talk her out of quitting the team her first couple of years.

"Oh, this is the best," she said. "I wanted to play Charleston three more times to make up for the three times they beat us earlier in the year."

Indeed, all three of the Lady Mocs' league losses came on a lost weekend in Charleston last month. Eliminate those defeats and UTC averaged over nine runs a game against the rest of the league.

And if you think the Lady Mocs weren't focused on revenge, four of the seven runs they scored in Saturday's fourth inning came off Alexa Datko, who was the SoCon pitcher of the year.

"We're dominating," Harrison said. "That's all I can say."

What Reed and his assistants said after the first couple of weeks was that the players needed to focus more than their approach to each at-bat.

"We've worked hard on making them loose at the plate," Reed said. "Just have fun with it. We're trying to point them in the right direction, but they're the ones swinging it."

No one swung it better Saturday than junior Vivian Morimoto, who was helping Miami Dade win a junior college national championship this time last year.

So how does Morimoto compare South Beach to North Shore after going 3-for-3 with two RBIs against the Cougars?

"I love Miami, but the people are really nice here," said the native of Brazil, who never saw Chattanooga until classes started last August. "I couldn't understand Coach Reed or some of my teammates real well at first. The accents are different. But it's great now. And compared to other teams I've played on, this team has really good chemistry."

It's not just the chemistry with her teammates that impresses Morimoto, though.

"There's something special about going up to bat and having all the parents saying your name," she said. "They miss work to come out here and support us. It just makes you want to do well for them."

It already has become such a special season that Reed has returned to banking on superstitions to help secure victories.

"I'd kind of walked away from those for a while," he said. "But this team's pulled me back in a little bit."

And what might those be?

"No. 1, we always stand in the same spot in the dugout for the national anthem," said Reed, who prefers to stand near the bats at the front of the dugout. "It can get a little hairy when the music begins and we're all scrambling to find our spots."

And the second superstition?

"The first game of a series you always wear the same underwear you wore the first game of the last series," he said.

And your underwear of choice, Coach?

"Boxers," Reed said.

But the best reason to feel good about it continuing to work comes from Harrison, who said she isn't into superstitions.

"As well as we're playing, we're still not there yet," she said. "And we all still want to get there."

The way they're hitting it, you'd have to believe they've at least got a puncher's chance against whomever they face in this week's regional. Or should that be a boxer's chance?

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