For the fourth straight season, Union enters the year ranked in the NAIA Preseason Top 10. The Lady Bulldogs are ranked No. 7 and are favored to win the TranSouth and NAIA Region XI championships. Union has won four straight conference titles three of the last four region titles. Union is also a favorite to win their third straight NCCAA National Championship.
Head Coach Brian Dunn is very optimistic about the season. He has brought in eight new players to join his five returning players. Union returns two NAIA All-Americans in pitcher/outfielder Leah Gronberg and third baseman Amy Mejia. Union also returns their starting catcher Megan Quarry, second baseman Crystal Surgalski, and utility outfielder Allison Shein. Many new faces will have the opportunity to contribute early and they must in order for Union to remain one of the nations elite.
Union’s pitching staff took the biggest hit with the loss of All-American Rachel Murray. However, junior Leah Gronberg has proven that she is able to fill the vacancy very well as Union’s No. 1 starter. Gronberg has a combined record of 52-5 over her first two college seasons with an ERA under one. Freshman Mary Kosco will step in as Union’s No. 2 pitcher. She is a highly regarded pitcher who looks to make an impact right away. If her expectations seem lofty, it is because she is from the same high school in Herrin, Illinois that produced NAIA All-Americans and Union standouts Rachel Murray and Lynde Cappagreco. Helping the team in relief will be sophomore transfer Sara Batey.
Three starters return to Union’s infied led by the lone senior on the team, Megan Quarry at the catcher position. Quarry is a great defensive catcher and also swings a very productive bat. Junior Amy Megia was an All-American selection last season at third base, but will make the move to shortstop this season. Junior Crystal Surgalski is back at second for the Lady Bulldogs. Junior transfer, Christina Johnson will be Union’s starting first baseman while freshman Jessica Kee will play third base. Freshmen Melissa McCue will serve as backup catcher for Union.
In the outfield, Union will have a lot of new faces. Freshman Holly Haycraft with her defense and great speed will be Union’s starting center fielder. Sophomore Allison Shein started in left field in the second half of last season and will see more time their in 2003. Gronberg will also play outfield when she is not pitching for Union. Sophomore transfer Amanda Dixon will see time in the outfield, as well as, some time at third base. Sara Batey, along with duties as a relief pitcher and backup shortstop, will be an outfielder for Coach Dunn’s squad, and freshman Katie Tipton will also see playing time in the outfield.
Union has started a great tradition of softball over the past few years. This team is prepared to continue that trend. The Lady Bulldogs are looking for their fourth NAIA World Series berth in the last five years. Union finished third in 2001 and ninth last season in the world series.