By Grant Braden
Union University baseball has had to practice patience early in the season. Games against Clarke University and the University of South Carolina-Beaufort were cancelled, forcing the Bulldogs to wait another week to be able start the season. However, Union baseball has great expectations for the season.
The team was picked to finish second in the TranSouth Conference, behind rival Cumberland University, and is ranked No. 16 in the pre-season NAIA polls. The Bulldogs look to returning players, transfers and upcoming freshmen to fill the gap that several players left through graduation.
The Bulldogs graduated six seniors last year, five of whom were starting-position players in the everyday lineup, and the sixth was a starter in the pitching rotation. Losses like that to most teams are too substantial, and in the end devastating, but the Bulldogs still hope to build on past successes.
“They were all really good players, but I expect us to be better this year,” said Brent Fronabarger, who has been the coach of Union’s baseball team since 2006. “The hardest part about replacing them is getting the new guys on the same page.”
The Bulldogs’ pitching staff will return a few of its top hurlers and receive a few key additions as well.
Matt Fike, senior media communications major who played three years of baseball at Lambuth University, joins the team. Fike is one of four senior pitchers on the team looking to put in solid innings. Also joining Fike on the staff is Dan Beck, senior utility player, who has been with the team for three years now. He is known not only to play outfield and hit well, but also to throw a few innings.
Derek Roof, sophomore engineering major who transferred from Indiana University, and Derek Copley, senior education major who transferred from the University of Southern Mississippi, joins Fike and Beck, among others, to present a strong rotation.
Junior Danny Grimm, political science major, said he is looking to continue the success he has had at Union so far. Grimm returns to the Bulldogs for his third season and is expected to start as shortstop, as well as hit in the leadoff position. Grimm acknowledged the empty space the seniors left , but applauded his coach for getting the players he did.
“The holes left by the players who graduated are big, but we got players from everywhere to fill them,” Grimm said.
One of the key additions to the Bulldogs is their catcher Doug Joyce, junior sports management major, who will take on the responsibility of handling the pitching staff. Joyce transferred from Florida International University and is a player Fronabarger hopes to be one of the best in the conference.
Building on last year’s achievements will be tough, but Fronabarger and the Bulldogs’ baseball team looks forward to exceeding expectations.
“We are going to try and go all the way,” Grimm said. “If we achieved anything less, it would be a let down.”