Softball copes with curveballs

Though everyone knew leadership would be graduating and someone would have to fill that position this season, no one foresaw the injuries the Lady Bulldogs would have to face this year. With key players hurt and a good number of freshmen new to NCAA play, this team is in for an uphill climb as they play in one of the best conferences in the nation.

The team traveled to Georgia for the Bobcat Classic three weekends ago to start their season. The Lady Bulldogs ended their first weekend 0-4. The following weekend they traveled to Alabama to play in the Gulf Shores Invitational, mercy ruling their first opponent, McKendree University. However, the Lady Bulldogs were not able to grab any more wins and finished the weekend 1-4.   

Union started conference play this past weekend at the University of West Georgia. The Bulldogs split Saturday winning 7 to 3 in the first game and falling short two runs in the second game, losing 9 to 7. They lost Sunday as well, leaving 1-2 for the weekend.

“We don’t have a Kelly Robey anymore,” said Hailey Cummings, junior exercise science major, on the loss of the graduated ace pitcher. “It’ll be a huge team effort. It’s been an adjustment, so we’re looking to find our footing.”

Losing Robey and a few unexpected injuries put the team back on their heels. Hailey Cummings, a pitcher for Union, was released to pitch a week before the Bobcat Classic. She pitched 3.2 innings in the first game of the tournament against Young Harris.

“It’s been rough,” Cummings said about returning to pitch. “The team has definitely been behind me, encouraging me, but it’s been hard coming back after not pitching for 18 months.”

With three teams in the GSC all ranked in the Top 20, the Lady Bulldogs are in for a hard season.

“We have to work as a team,” said Reagan Schrader, senior psychology major. “Hitters need to hit. Defense needs to be strong and pitchers need to get our outs. It’s the GSC. It’s going to be a battle every game.”

Coach Heather Hall said she is confident her girls will find a way to win, but she realizes they have a tough schedule and the team will quickly have to learn how to adapt.

“This year is more of a rebuilding year,” she said. “We have a phenomenal team and pitching staff, but due to some unforeseen circumstances we are left a little thin with experienced pitchers.”

The Lady Bulldogs will play Maryville University this Wednesday, Feb. 17, and then travel to Rome, Georgia this weekend to take on #3, Shorter University.