Union University Lady Bulldogs reached the final day of the
NAIA Softball World Series in Decatur, Ala. on Tuesday when
Union, along with Simon Fraser University and Oklahoma City
University, were left to battle for the 2001 title. The Lady
Bulldogs, in their second appearance in three seasons, had
cruised through to championship day by winning four of the
five games played in this double-elimination tournament.
Earlier this month, Union had been crowned the NCCAA National
Championships by defeating East Texas Baptist University.
opened the final day of the tournament by once again taking on
Simon Fraser of British Columbia, Canada in the loserís
bracket finals. The Clan had given Union their only loss a day
earlier and now the Lady Bulldogs would have their opportunity
for redemption. However, Union again fell to Simon Fraser in
a 4-0 shutout when the Lady Bulldogs gave up two runs in both
the third and fifth innings. Union scattered three hits in the
game off of Simon Fraser pitcher Erin Thomas, but could not
score. Union would end its national title run by finishing
third in the World Series. The Lady Bulldogs closed out with a
record of 63-8, the best in the nation and a new school record
for wins in a season. Unionís No. 2 ranking in the NAIA
polls was the highest ever ranking for the softball program.
The Lady Bulldogs were very well represented in the NAIA
with their post-season honors. Leading the list of winners,
Union junior Rachel Murray, from Herrin, Ill. was selected the
NAIAís Pitcher of the Year as she finished the season with a
record of 34-5 with a miniscule 0.37 earned run average and
collected 369 strikeouts with only 54 walks in 268.1 innings
pitched. She threw eight no-hitters including her latest
coming against the University of Mobile in the World Series,
and her opponents hit an almost non-existent .092 against
Murray this season. Joining Murray on the NAIA All-Tournament
team was junior catcher Ame Clapsaddle, from Manchester, Tenn.
who hit .394 on the season with 26 doubles, 12 homeruns, and
79 RBI. Clapsaddle collected eight RBI during the tournament,
two RBI shy of the tournament record. Union also had three
First Team All-Americans and one Second Team All-American.
Murray, Clapsaddle, and senior Jennifer Sabourin were named to
the first team. Sabourin was named TranSouth Conference Player
of the Year this season while leading the league with a .424
average. She also tallied 21 doubles, 7 homeruns, and 68 RBI.
Making the Second Team NAIA All-American was freshman pitcher
Leah Gronberg, from College Station, Texas. Gronberg finished
29-3 on the season with an impressive 0.94 earned run average
and recorded 188 strikeouts and 45 walks in 208.2 innings
pitched. All four of these Lady Bulldogs add these
All-American honors to their All-Region and All-Conference
selections. Union also placed two Lady Bulldogs on the NAIA
Scholar Athlete list, as seniors Lori Neal and Michelle
Gardner made the selection. Neal, from Mansfield, Tenn.
graduated with a 3.509 GPA in Art while playing first base for
the Lady Bulldogs this season. While being Unionís everyday
second baseman, Gardner, from Metamora, Ill. has accumulated a
3.55 GPA in Sports Medicine.
The 2001 season would truly be a record setting year as the
Lady Bulldogs either set or tied 20 school records. Union also
had 11 individual records broken during the season. Clapsaddle
set new records with 26 doubles, 12 homeruns, and 79 runs
batted in. Shortstop Brandi Park, from Checotah, Okla. set a
new record with her 63 runs scored this season. Park, along
with seniors Jennifer Sabourin and Johnna Porter, and junior
Rachel Murray all tied the school record with 71 games played
this season. Murray set new pitching records for wins in a
season with 34, appearances with 42, games started with 41,
innings pitched with 268.1, and strikeouts with 369.
President David Dockery praised the Lady Bulldogs for their
outstanding season. "These fine young ladies have
represented Union well on the field and off. They typify Unionís
commitment to Christ-Centered excellence in academics and