The 2004 season for the Union University Lady Bulldog softball team looks to continue their stronghold on the TranSouth Conference. Union has won five straight conference championships and would like to make that six by season’s end. In 1004, Coach Brian Dunn has both pitchers and all but three starters on defense. Union lost their starting catcher and second baseman to graduation and the right fielder transferred. The preseason NAIA No. 9 Lady Bulldogs have added four new players, two transfers and two freshmen, to help fill those voids.
Pitching for Union has been their strongest asset over the short history of the program and this year will be no exception. Senior Leah Gronberg and sophomore Mary Kosco are both returning from outstanding season’s of a year ago. Gronberg is a three-time NAIA All-American and Kosco was named NAIA All-Region as a freshman. Both pitchers boasted ERA’s under one last season as Gronberg posted a 24-8 record and Kosco going 21-5 on the season.
The infield for the Lady Bulldogs has three starters returning from last season including Jessica Kee at third base, Amy Mejia and shortstop, and Christina Johnson at first base. Mejia and Johnson are both seniors this year and will both be a major contributor in the offensive production of the team. Mejia was second on the team in 2003 with a .324 batting average and was second behind Johnson with 29 total RBI. Johnson hit .297 in 2003 with four triples, four home runs, and a team hit 37 RBI. Kee started 56 of 57 games as a freshman last season and led Union with five home runs while hitting .320. She will also be called on to provide similar offensive numbers as a sophomore. Sara Batey, a returning junior utility player from last year, will get the start at second base in 2004. Batey hit .273 last season in limited action. Sophomore transfer Leanne Closson will get the start behind the plate this season. Closson will replace Union two-time NAIA All-Region catcher of a year ago in Megan Quarry. Closson has proven to be a solid hitter and should add big numbers at the plate this season. Freshman additions Kristen Kolter and Lauren Young will also see time behind the plate this season but mostly will be used as designated players. Both are good offensive players with solid bats.
Union’s outfield will have two of the three starters returning. Sophomore Holly Haycraft returns after a record setting freshman campaign in which she set Union’s record for steals in a season with 44. She sits just nine away from the career stolen base mark. Haycraft was second on the team in 2003 with a .324 average and a team high 59 hits while playing an almost flawless center field. Junior left fielder, Allison Shein hit .311 as a sophomore for her best season to this point. Her 55 total hits tied her for second on the team. Sophomore Transfer Cassandra Ramos will get the start in right field this season. Ramos is a good hitter and will also serve at Union’s No. 3 pitcher and backup infielder.
The Lady Bulldogs have high goals for the 2004 season. With a large group of returning players with NAIA World Series experience, and a solid group of new talent added to the team, this squad has a great shot at making a run deep in to the NAIA postseason.