2002 Bulldog Baseball Season Outlook
The Bulldog baseball program enters the 2002 season as the No. 24 team in the NAIA. Union has added some good talent in hopes of fielding a deeper and more consistent team this season. The Bulldogs finished 34-23 last season with their third consecutive trip to the regional tournament. Union will face five NAIA Top 25 teams during the 2002 season and have six games against NCAA Div. II opponents. The Bulldogs are picked to win the TranSouth Conference in 2002 and have hopes of reaching the NAIA World Series.
Union pitching staff will once again be under the direction of assistant coach Brent Fronabarger. His staff this season will be tremendously deeper than last year’s squad. Union has nine pitchers on the roster with five of those returning from last year. Leading the staff as the No. 1 starter will be junior Blake Allen. This hard-throwing left-hander led the team in wins last season with nine and strikeouts with 101. Seniors Joseph Talley, Chuck Washburn, and Cory Lay will also be called on to help lead the group and to be a consistent and solid foundation for the Bulldog staff. These four guys along with sophomore Nash Powell will be used for both spot starts and relief appearances throughout the season. The Bulldogs have four new additions to the pitching staff including junior transfer Michael Griffin. Griffin has valuable experience and will be asked to step in immediately as a spot starter and middle relief for the Bulldogs. Three talented freshmen round out the staff led by Matt Gibbs who will get his chance early in his career to start in big games. Lewis Curd and Wesley Plunk will also have to contribute valuable innings against one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. Every pitcher will have their chance to contribute due to the new four game conference weekends in 2002.
On the infield, head coach Andy Rushing feels very confident about this group. Senior all-conference third baseman from Jackson, Jeff Wyatt has improve defensively each year and will continue to be one of the most dangerous hitters in the conference. Brad Taylor, also a Jackson native, will play the role of utility infielder and pinch hitter. Senior Doug Taylor will be at second base again after a solid defensive performance from a year ago. Junior transfer, Rolondo Agosto, will start as shortstop for the Bulldogs. Jackson State transfer Chip Briggs will get starts at second base and the outfield this season. With Agosto, D. Taylor, and Briggs, this middle infield will be the best in recent years for the Bulldogs. Sophomore transfer Jason Johnson will be used at multiple positions this season both on the infield and in the outfield because of this tremendous speed, great range, and athleticism. Freshmen Josh Allen will be in the lineup as either the designated hitter or at first base because of his impressive performance in the fall. Freshman first baseman, Jeff Reese, will red-shirt this year.
Junior Roger Cook and sophomore Marc Glass will fill the catching position this season for the Bulldogs. Each will get their opportunities to gain the starting position. Cook will also see some time as the designated hitter because of this powerful bat in the middle of the lineup. Jackson native, B.J. Traverse will also put in some time behind the plate and as designated hitter during his freshman season.
First team all-conference performer as a freshman, Jackson local Joel Hysmith will once again roam center field for the Bulldogs and provide power and speed at the leadoff spot. Senior Travis Moore will return for Union after solid defensive contributions during 2001. Moore also proved to be one the of Union’s best clutch hitters throughout last season. Sophomore Matt Glass will once again be used in the outfield and as a pinch/courtesy runner because of his outstanding speed. Transfer Jed Thomas will start for in the outfield and Delta State transfer Jamie Edwards will be a valuable addition because of his great speed and his bunting ability. Freshman Drew Yates will also spend time in the outfield for the Bulldogs this season.
Coach Rushing believes this lineup could be on of the best he’s had, both offensively and defensively. They will be tested early and often as the Bulldogs will battle top NAIA and NCAA opponents throughout the season. The conference play will be different this season with out Birmingham-Southern and Lipscomb, both have moved to NCAA Div. I. Instead of three-game conference weekends, now all teams will play four games with two on both Fridays and Saturdays. Union hopes to start the season on a good note down in Montgomery, Ala. in the always tough Capital City Classic. The Bulldogs are primed and ready to prove they are one of the top teams in the NAIA in 2002.