BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - The Lady Bulldogs will travel to Kingsport, Tenn. early next week in search of its first ever Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament crown.
Union (16-16, 8-8 AAC) enters the eight team, double elimination tournament as the No. 6 seed and will take on No. 3 seed Montreat College (22-21, 10-6 AAC) on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.
The Lady Cavaliers should sound familiar, as the last two games Union played were at Montreat College. Montreat took game one, 7-6, but the Lady Bulldogs rebounded to win game two, 6-3, back on April 18th.
To view the 2010 Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament bracket, click here.
Heading into the conference tournament, the Lady Bulldogs have played the second fewest games (32) this season amongst AAC teams. Union has had 12 games cancelled this season due to inclement weather.
Even with the shortened schedule this season and the extra time off, first year head coach Danny Fish feels his squad is ready heading into the conference tournament on the heels of an unexpected nine day layoff.
"We didn't plan on having the extra time off, but it is welcomed because we needed the time improve mentally and physically in terms of the health of our overall depth heading into the tournament."
The nine day span between games is the longest break in action for the Lady Bulldogs since it had a five day layoff in late March into early April (March 28th - April 4th).
Coach Fish also likes the break in action because he believes it gives his squad some time to mentally prepare for the upcoming tournament. "We have a veteran group of girls, and in the past this group has made runs in the conference tournament and they know a ‘one game at a time' mentality is what it will take to win the tournament."
In Coach Fish's eyes, the Lady Bulldogs can make a deep run at Kingsport, Tenn. "We've been swinging the bats well all season long and our fielding has been much better as of late. We are also fortunate enough to have two pitchers in Abby Sears (London, Ky.) and Sarah Driver (Hopkinsville, Ky.) who are more than capable of carrying us over the four days of action."
The Union signal caller went on to say, "every team in our league is good enough to win the tournament, but if we just make the simple plays, we have as good a chance as any team in the field to win it all."
When looking at the abilities of Lady Bulldogs pitching staff, do not look any further that senior Sarah Driver. The former Region XII and AAC Pitcher of the year (2007) commented on her mindset going into her final AAC Tournament. "I have made it a point to focus on every single pitch in this being my senior season, but that point gets moved up on the priority list in post-season play."
Driver (9-7) has an ERA of 2.02 this season and looks focused to lead Union to its first ever conference tournament championship. "I feel if we make the routine plays defensively, everything else will take care of itself."
Making the routine plays defensively in the post-season comes with leadership and experience, and no Union infielder carries that torch as well as senior Bethany Outland (Hopkinsville, Ky.).
Outland has started in every game (32) this season at first base and carries the best individual fielding percentage (.990) on a squad that has accumulated a .945 fielding percentage as a team on the season.
Outland commented today, "I am anxious and excited to get the tournament started. With this being my final conference tournament I want to make sure that I, as well as the whole team, leave it all on the field in every single game."
The Hopkinsville native went on to comment on the defensive play of the Lady Bulldogs, "if we just make the routine plays and focus on controlling what we can control, we will play well."
Statistically, the strongest aspect of 2010 Union squad is its offense. The Lady Bulldogs hold the top spots amongst conference teams in slugging percentage (.415) and hits per game (8.16), to go along with a team batting average of .305, which ranks second in the AAC.
Helping lead the potent offensive charge on the season has been senior Lee Davis (Lexington, Ky.). Davis has accrued a .344 batting average while also scoring 10 runs and knocking in eight fellow Lady Bulldogs.
Davis touched on her final trip to Kingsport for the AAC tournament, "I'm ready to play and I think the team is ready to play. The extra time off has helped physically, but more importantly it has given us time to prepare mentally in terms of executing offensively."Davis has been a steady cog in the middle of the Lady Bulldog lineup and also understands the importance of execution in the AAC tournament. "Being able to come through with runners on base and being able to get hits with two outs in the tournament is what can carry a team to accomplishing great things and I feel we are ready to do that."