After completing nearly a fourth of the season with a winning record, the Union baseball program has without a doubt entered a new era. With head coach Lee Driggers’s recruiting 25 new players, the team jumped from a mere seven total wins last year to a five-game winning streak to start this season.
“I’m pretty optimistic,” said Austin Orr, second baseman. “As a returner from last year, there is vast improvement.”
Union’s overall record is 12-5, and their conference record is 6-3. After claiming the series against Shorter University by winning two out of three games, the Bulldogs went on to sweep their next series against Christian Brothers University. Out of the past three conference series, Union’s recent battle against Delta State University, one of the better teams in the Gulf South Conference, offers the most insight into the future of the baseball program.
After Delta State scored four runs in the first inning of game one, Union continued to battle, slowly gaining momentum in a game that looked to be going the opposite direction. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Tyler Mauzy hit a hard line drive back up the middle which drove in two runs, ending the walk-off game with a final score of 8-7. However, the two losses that followed Union’s most celebrated comeback victory of the season proves that while Union is becoming a top contender in their conference, they still have some work to do.
“If we’re going to get through this, a couple of guys will have to step up,” said Assistant Coach Andy Rushing. “We’re working every day to develop someone else we can rely on.”
Building a stronger offense is one of the team’s primary goals, especially after their 0-12 loss against Delta State University on March 6. Union’s catcher Zach Wylie believes there has already been improvement since that last game.
“I think we’re going to start seeing a difference now,” Wylie said. “We’ve got some incredibly talented hitting, [but] hitting is mental. When we approach with a mindset of being ready to hit, we’re a completely different team. Coach Rushing knows how to call a game. [The pitchers are] really stepping up and only keep getting better.”
Rushing believes the team’s chemistry and support for one another gives them an advantage when they find themselves in tough situations. For example, if the pitcher is struggling, the offense readily picks up the slack through their hitting, which is what happened in the first game against Delta State University.
Among Union’s talented weekend starters, Marty Coursey has been the most consistent this season, and Teddy Christie had his best outing of the year in the second game against Delta State University.
After Union’s comeback in the first game against Delta State University, the Bulldogs have proven they have what it takes to stay persistent in spite of adversity, and it will be important for them to continue in that mindset throughout the remainder of the season.
“Without a doubt, we’re good enough to make the conference tournament,” Wylie said. “It’s not a question of whether we’re good enough, we just need to show up with intensity and focus.”
With a completely new team this season, the baseball program has advanced to a higher level in a short amount of time. As the team continues to build upon the newer, stronger foundation, the improvement will be gradual and consistent.
“Coach told us before the Delta State series that every team we play will be better than us on paper, [but] it’s about who plays the best ball,” said Brady Cook, right-fielder. “We like being the underdogs.”