CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Frank Reed admits he was pretty worried when he saw only two pitchers on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball roster at the end of the fall season.
The dismissal of one player and a season-ending injury to another dropped cut the Lady Mocs' staff in half, leaving only fifth-year senior Michelle Fuzzard and true freshman Taylor Deason to toe the rubber.
"We went recruiting really hard in the winter, and actually thought we were going to be able to bring in a couple people there late," Reed recalled.
Turns out, Reed didn't need anyone else.
The Lady Mocs hit the road to UNC Greensboro this weekend hoping to wrap up yet another Southern Conference championship after winning 15 of their last 16 games.
And Deason is a big reason why.
The Clarksville, Tenn., native has an impressive 2.30 ERA and is the first SoCon pitcher to win 20 games in a season since former UTC ace Brooke Loudermilk did it as a freshman in 2007.
She seems to be saving her best for last, as well, after going 8-1 in the month of April to claim SoCon Pitcher of the Month honors.
"I came in expecting to work hard and put out the effort, and I've enjoyed it," Deason said. "(Having just two pitchers) was a lot to take in, but I was ready to pitch and I expected to win.
"Fuzz has been like a teacher to me, and especially a lot of the mental stuff she's taught me have helped me a lot this year."
Deason said simplifying that mental approach has helped alleviate some of the pressure that can come with stepping into the circle on the college level.
"If I just go out there and shut all the other stuff out and tell myself 'Go out there and pitch like you are 14,' it's fun," Deason said. "When we were 14 we weren't thinking about all the things that could possibly happen. You just go out there and have fun, and thinking like that has definitely helped me."
Deason is one of several UTC newcomers to step in and step up after the departure of six seniors from last year's record-breaking team.
The transition was certainly not easy, but she still found a way to handle it like a veteran well beyond her years.
"She could have gotten those big eyes and got scared, which does happen to a lot of freshman, but that never happened to her," Reed said. "She's got that attitude and personality where she's laid back a little bit.
"She can handle whatever is thrown at her and get up and try again the next day."
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