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Lady Mocs take SoCon tournament title

STATESBORO — In the Southern Conference Softball Championship Game presented by Carolina Ford Dealers, Chattanooga put up seven runs in the fourth inning to defeat the College of Charleston Cougars 11-2 in five innings. The Lady Mocs claimed the Southern Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

College of Charleston was able to strike first in the championship game in the second inning. Kristi Woodall led off the Cougar inning with a single back up the middle, followed a bunt from Katie Nutaitis in which both runners were safe on a fielder's choice throw to second. Kristy Giragosian then drew a walk to put Cougars on every bag. The bases loaded jam caused the Lady Mocs to go to the bullpen and bring in Nikki Waters to replace Michelle Fuzzard. Waters retired the first two batters she faced before Lizzy Vaughn connected for a single up the middle to score Woodall and Nutaitis and giving the Cougars the early 2-0 lead.

Chattanooga was able to get one of the runs back in the bottom half of the inning. With Kasey Tydingco on second base and two outs, Jessica Traxler knocked a single to center field to send the Chattanooga first baseman home and cut the Cougar lead in half.

The Lady Mocs continued its offensive attack in the third inning when Lyndsey Stiles and Sara Poteat started the inning with singles and Fuzzard loaded the bases with a walk. Tiffany Baker tied the game with a sacrifice to right field that scored Stiles. Vivian Morimoto then gave Chattanooga a two-run lead with a bases-clearing double. After the fourth Lady Mocs' run, Charleston brought in Alexa Datko to relieve starter Stephanie Saylors. Datko recorded two straight outs in order to keep the Cougars within striking distance for the moment.

However, Chattanooga would continue to increase its lead in the fourth when Traxler, Lauren Flores and Stiles started the inning on three straight singles. Traxler scored on the Stiles single, and Flores and Stiles crossed the plate on a three-run blast from Fuzzard to straight center. After the Lady Mocs took the 8-2 lead on the home run, Charleston brought in Jen Rosene from the bullpen.

After retiring the first hitter that Rosene faced, a Lady Moc single by Morimoto followed by a walk to Tydingco put two runners on base for Della Harrison. Harrison would single up the middle to score Morimoto. Tydingco and Harrison would come around to score and put the Lady Mocs up 11-2 off an error by Nutaitis. Rosene would eventually escape the inning when Stiles hit into a 5-3 groundout.

Waters picked up her third win of the championship and improved her overall record to 12-3. The Chattanooga pitcher threw 4.0 innings and only gave up one hit on seven strikeouts.

Chattanooga will find out its postseason fate tomorrow when the NCAA Tournament field is announced. Chattanooga improved its record to 42-12 while the College of Charleston falls to 37-21.