By Chandler Morrison, Staff Writer —
In the heart of the Scenic City, teams geared up for the Chattanooga Challenge presented by Ruby Falls Friday in hopes of knocking off the hosting Mocs.
With a weekend featuring a close in-state showdown, two rain-outs and a lot of firepower throughout, the Mocs improved their record to 3-6 on the season, losing three straight at the end of the tournament.
A New Rivalry Brewing?
The Mocs and Tennessee Tech are natural rivals, but Chattanooga has held the upper hand for many years winning six straight against the Golden Eagles, mainly in dominant fashion.
The Eagles put a wrinkle in that streak Saturday as they picked up their first victory of the season, 7-6, over Chattanooga. Tech’ s Gabby Lasala hit two home runs in the 3rd and 5th innings, scoring 4 of the Eagles’ seven runs.
Chattanooga right-fielder Aly Walker, Medina, Tenn., went 2-for-4 in the matchup, batting three runners in during the 5th and 7th innings, which sparked a Mocs comeback. The Mocs scored the last two runs of the game and only produced one error in the ball game, but the Tech defense held just enough to squeak by Chattanooga.
In the last few seasons, Chattanooga dominated the Golden Eagles, but with a budding program that is beginning to fight, the Mocs could be in for a more intense rivalry against the in-state Eagles. On top of that, both schools compete for the same prospects in the powerhouse East Tennessee and North Georgia regions.
Chattanooga hosts the Golden Eagles Apr. 19 in the midst of a tough conference slate late in the season.
The Evolution of the Early Season
Coming into the Chattanooga Challenge, Frank Reed and company rode a two-game win streak with victories over Morgan State and Fairleigh Dickinson in the NTC Tournament in Clermont, Florida.
Friday evening, it seemed as though the Mocs’ streak was destined to continue after a 10-3 blow out of Radford. Three different Mocs homered for a total of eight RBIs. Freshman lefty Payten Price, Cookeville, Tenn., pitched all seven innings, allowing only one earned run in her second pitching win of the season.
Later that evening, Tennessee Tech pulled off the one-run upset, 7-6, halting the streak at three games. The Mocs would go on to finish with a 1-3 record on the weekend. Chattanooga went from a three-game win streak to a trio of losses in the matter of a week. And as the Mocs get set to host another tournament—the Frost Classic presented by Ruby Falls—this coming weekend, their streak still lingers.
Reed’s squad starts off with a team they took down in the NTC tournament (Fairleigh Dickinson), but several other squads, including UT-Martin, St. Louis and Northwestern State, pose a challenge in the early parts of Chattanooga’s non-conference slate.
Before the conference schedule, Chattanooga still has several tournaments left, each with more big-name teams than the last. Tweaking pitching staffs and batting lineups will be key in their next home tournament as they prepare for a more difficult schedule on the road.
The Frost Classic begins Friday Feb. 24 at Frost Stadium. The field features Western Michigan, Northwestern State, Fairleigh Dickinson, UT-Martin, the Mocs, and St. Louis. Students receive free admission with a Mocs Card.
*Photo by Chad Pasinger