The Union University softball team will have to replace some major contributors in 2009. Union is returning eight players from last season, along with bringing in eight new faces. Union graduated three players in 2008 and lost two players.
Among the losses include two of the top three hitters and RBI producers. Also gone is three of the four pitchers from a season ago that produced 29 of the team’s 36 wins.
The lone returning pitcher is Bethany Burnett who produced seven wins last season on the mound and pitched a career high 109 innings.
Offensively, Union returns Ashley Blankenship, the team’s leading hitter with a .406 average, 19 doubles, six homers, and 56 RBI. Also returning is Michelle Albonetti, Lindsey Landreneau, and Brittany Burkett, who each posted averages in the mid-.300’s. Candice Thompson, Kristen Kirk, and Brooke Laws also return from last season. Thompson started 58 of Union’s 59 games last season as a catcher or designated player. Kirk saw limited time due to injury, but expects to contribute more this season, while Laws played in key roles off the bench.
Union Head Coach Heather Hall, in her second season with Union, has added eight new faces to the roster. Leading the way are Ali Thomas, Ali Bozza, Sydney McMillin, and Hailee Edwards. Bozza will help with the middle infield positions; while McMillin and Edwards while help bolster the pitching staff. Thomas will take care of duties behind the plate. Katie Davis, Emily Anthony, Sara Beth Redmon, and Carmesha Owens also join Union this season.
The senior class boasts four players, three of which are at Union for their fourth seasons. Bethany Burnett, Kris-ten Kirk, and Michelle Albonetti all return as starters from last season. Ashley Blankenship returns after starting every game for Union as an All-Conference and All-Region first baseman.
Four juniors line the roster, including three returning from last season. Those back after starting for Union last season are Brittany Burkett, Lindsey Landre-neau, and Candice Thompson. Ali Thomas transfers to Union from Belmont University.
The smallest class on the roster is the sophomore class, consisting of just two players. Brooke Laws returns after playing for Union last season. Sara Beth Redmon did not play for Union last season.
Six freshman make up the largest class on the roster. Ali Bozza, Katie Davis, Emily Anthony, Hailee Edwards, Carmesha Owens, and Sydney McMillin will have the opportunity to contribute early in their careers.
The Union Lady Bulldogs are picked fourth in the TranSouth Confer-ence preseason rankings, but look to improve on that position and battle for their eighth TranSouth championship.