BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - Union has high expectations as the 2010 softball season and will open the year Wednesday when Campbellsville (Ky.) visits for 1 p.m. doubleheader.
The Lady Bulldogs are coming off an Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament runner-up and a 27-25 with a overall conference record 8-8 which placed the Lady Bulldogs fifth in the regular-season standings.
Senior Sarah Driver (Hopkinsville, Ky.) is coming off a 12-14 season but had an era. 2.05 in a 174 innings pitched.
"Sarah has had great career at Union College and we expect her to go out with a bang" stated first-year coach Danny Fish.
Driver hit for a .282 average last season while driving in 22 runs and scoring 26 runs.
Abby Sears (London, Ky.) is coming off an All-Conference season as a freshman which puts her in the category of impact player for the Lady Bulldogs. She was 13-11 with an era. 1.85 in 25 appearances. She also had 7 shutouts and 23 complete games. At the plate Abby drove in 17 runs and slugged for .413 percentage.
"We expect Abby to improve on her freshman campaign," said Fish. "She is versatile and athletic so it makes for a good mix on the mound."
Nicole Aikens (Hopkinsville, Ky.) and Jessie Dunning (Bowling Green, Ky.) will also get some time on the mound. Aikens is freshman who expected to fill the mid week games and Dunning will be asked to come out of the bullpen when needed.
At first base sophomore Dunning and senior Bethany Outland (Hopkinsville, Ky.) will spilt time, both are good hitters and very experienced. Outland is coming off an All-Conference season were she hit .303 and drove in 19 runs. Dunning who was injured at the being of the 2009 season ended the season hitting .317 in 19 games.
"Both kids will be able to handle their roles for this years team, and both are very talented at the plate so will try to find both of them spots in the lineup," Fish said.
Lee Davis (Lexington, Ky.) and Christi Day (Hustonville, Ky.) will roam at second base. Davis is a senior and one of the most explosive bats in the Bulldogs lineup. Davis had a down year at the plate with batting average but led the team in RBIs (25) and home runs (3) in 2009. Day is a sophomore who will give us some depth and is great example for the program.
Ali Blauser ((Hopkinsville, Ky.) can play both middle infield positions but is penciled in at shortstop. She has great range and a quick release. Blauser was the leadoff hitter in 2009 and hit .280 and led the team in runs scored (28) and stolen bases (15).
"We expect Alli to have a bigger impact for this year's team and to be a catalyst for this year's offense," commented Fish.
Autumn Greenwell (Hopkinsville, Ky.) will be asked to fulfill the duties in the hot corner for this season. Greenwell was an All-State player at Christian County High.
"Greenwell is a good player with a high level of maturity for an 18-year old," said Fish. "I expect her to be a really good player for the next four seasons."
Gina Loflin (Salisbury, N.C.) will be asked to handle the staff this season. Loflin is a transfer from Walters State (Tenn.) Community and is a great receiver.
"Gina has a great arm and instincts for the game. Gina can also hit for power and average," the Lady Bulldog coach said. "She will be a great addition to the lineup."
Around the outfield, Union has five players capable of filling three positions. In left field sophomore Morgan Brown (Waynesburg, Ky.) will get the nod. She is coming off a freshman year were she mostly used as a pinch runner. Brown is slapper who can utilize her speed but experience will be the determining factor on how successful she is.
"I believe Morgan can be a good player but she have to handle the ups and downs of a long season and we believe she is up for the tasks," said Fish.
Returning in centerfield for the Bulldogs is Ashley Tatman. As a freshman, Tatman was an All-AAC member along being voted to the All-Region squad. In her sophomore season, Tatman hit .290 along with 22 rbi's, along with scoring 21 runs.
"Tat is one of the most coachable players on this year's squad; she brings confidence, experience in the big game, and versatility which we are going to need," noted Fish.
Right field will be filled by three different players: Driver, Sears and Bethany Rogers (Crofton, Ky.) depending on who is pitching. Driver and Sears are very athletic and interchangeable but Bethany Rogers may see time as the Designated Player because of her offensive potential.
The 2010 season features 48 games, which includes 14-game conference schedule and a tournament.
Union has four home conference doubleheaders and four away doubleheaders. The defending conference tournament champions UVA-Wise will visit Barbourville, while Union will travel regular-season champion Millgan College.
The Lady Bulldogs have four opponents in the top 20 and another two that are receiving votes on the schedule. Union will travel to the Shorter (Ga.) Tournament to play No. 18 Mobile (Ala.) and No. 12 Shorter. Union will finish the season at No. 16 Lee (Tenn.). Union hosts No. 24 Campbellsville (Ky.).
"I believe in competing at the highest level you have to play the best. Playing a tough schedule will prepare us for the AAC tournament and the NAIA Tournament," stated Fish.
The season leads up to the AAC Tournament, which is set to start April 27 in Kingsport, Tenn.
Union College landed fifth in the regular season in 2009, while making it to the championship game eventually losing to UVA-Wise. This season, Union is projected to finish fourth with Milligan (Tenn.) picked to win it all. UVa-Wise was second with Montreat (N.C.) third.