2002 Lady Bulldog Softball Season Outlook
The Union Lady Bulldogs are looking to return to the NAIA Softball World Series after their third place finish last season. However, Coach Dunn and his squad will have to depend on a lot of new faces. Ranked No. 3 in the NAIA pre-season poll, Union has only four returning players from last season’s record setting team.
Union will be tested early as they will face NCCAA opponent Grace College, cross-town rival Lambuth University, and NCAA Div. II opponent Delta State University all in the first month of the season. After that follows the always tough TranSouth Conference play in which the Lady Bulldogs will look to defend their regular season championship and will their third in a row.
Leading the Lady Bulldogs will be their two NAIA All-American pitchers, senior Rachel Murray and sophomore Leah Gronberg. Murray and Gronberg boasted ERA’s less than one last season and will be called on to carry this team early.
Senior Brandi Park is the only infielder returning from last season’s NCCAA National Championship team. Park will once again man the shortstop position and handle the leadoff duties for the Lady Bulldog offense. The rest of the Lady Bulldog infield will be newcomers. Junior transfer, Megan Quarry will start behind the plate and also give the Lady Bulldogs a solid bat at the plate. Yet another junior transfer, Breanna Walker will start for the Lady Dogs at first base. Sophomore, Amy Mejia could be Union’s best hitter this year while also proving to be one of the best third baseman in the league. Crystal Surgalski, a freshman second baseman, will add solid defense and speed to Union’s lineup. Ashley Alsbrook, a junior transfer from Jackson State, will be a utility player in both the infield and outfield for the Lady Bulldogs.
In the outfield, Gronberg and Murray will platoon in left-field when the other is on the mound. Murray produced her career best last season from the plate and looks to match that effort this season. Gronberg saw limited plate appearances, but improved as the season progressed and will take on more responsibility at the plate in 2002. Senior back-up Christina French will continue to give consistency as a utility player for the Lady Bulldogs. Junior transfer, Olivia Craden will start in the outfield and provide Union with good offensive numbers while also backing up Quarry behind the plate from time to time. Freshman Allison Shein and Nicole Garber will see time in the outfield and as pinch runners because of their tremendous speed and athleticism.
This is a very talented group and Coach Dunn feels they will compete as one of the top teams in the nation. Returning to the NAIA Softball World Series for the third time in four seasons will be a challenge but one he feels possible this season.