The shot that left fielder Layne Rainey made a running catch on in the seventh inning that saved two runs from scoring wasn't indicative of the way Marshall hit the ball most of Wednesday's softball game at Jim Frost Stadium. The popfly she made a diving catch on and saved a run the inning before was more like it.
The Thundering Herd touched both of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's pitchers for a total of seven hits, but thanks to some late defensive gems like Rainey's, the Lady Mocs were able to hold on for a 4-1 victory.
UTC improves to 20-13 heading into this weekend's three-game Southern Conference series at home against Elon. Friday's doubleheader starts at 1 p.m., as does Saturday's finale.
"I think we're playing great," Rainey said. "This will help our confidence going into this weekend. Defense wins ballgames is what they say."
Once the Lady Mocs broke a tie at 1 with a three-run fifth, Marshall (20-15) responded with a one-out double to left by Ashley Gue. A sprawling catch in foul territory by shortstop Jessica Traxler preceded Rainey's grab in the shallow part of the outfield.
"Those bloops will kill you," Rainey said. "I was determined not to let that one fall."
Winning pitcher Taylor Deason (13-7) helped herself by snagging a high, hard-hit one-hopper that she turned into the second out of the seventh inning, but the Marshall runners on first and second advanced on the play. Alysia Hively then drove a pitch near the fence that Rainey came in on at first, but was able to pivot quickly and run it down.
"She's so quick," said starter Michelle Fuzzard, who allowed three hits and an unearned run over the first four innings. "She's great out there. I did gasp a little bit, but she can make those. Her speed really helps her make those plays."
Fuzzard also starred offensively with a 2-for-3 effort that included her seventh home run of the season to give UTC a 1-0 lead in the third. She followed a bases-loaded walk to Cheyenne Willis in the fifth with a two-run single.
Rainey, who started the season batting right-handed but is now working on being a left-handed slap-hitter, also contributed an infield single Wednesday. She scored on Fuzzard's hit.
"She keeps getting better and better and better," UTC coach Frank Reed said of Rainey, a sophomore who was a walk-on last year. "She's got a great attitude and works hard. She exemplifies a student-athlete. She plays because she loves this game. I keep giving her chances to prove herself, and she keeps showing me she needs to be out there."