Jackson, Tenn. - 1/30/2003 - Union University begins their 2003 season on Friday as they will travel down to Montgomery, Alabama for the Capital City Classic. Union leaves today at 2:00 p.m. for the always tough tournament which features many of the top NAIA teams. Union is ranked No. 20 in the preseason polls.
On Friday, Union will play No. 13 St. Thomas at 10:00 a.m. and No. 5 Faulkner University at 3:00 p.m. On Saturday, the Bulldogs face No. 14 North Georgia College at 10:00 a.m. and then No. 16 Auburn-Montgomery at 3:30 p.m. This will be a great way for the Bulldogs to find out where their young team stacks up against other top teams. Last season, Union left Montgomery with a sweep of four ranked teams which propelled them to a 10-0 start on the season. Coach Rushing would love to see similar results with his young squad.
The Bulldogs are coming off a championship season in which they won 44 games and claimed the TranSouth regular season and tournament championships. Head Coach Andy Rushing hopes to have reloaded for another run at the NAIA World Series. However, having to reload a team that lost the TranSouth and Region XI Player of the Year, two Major League draft picks, and 30 wins from the pitching staff will be easier said than done. Rushing, the TranSouth, Region XI, and ABCA Coach of the Year, believes that the Bulldogs have added a talented group of players to join with a quality core that is returning to the 2003 squad.
Union is returning all three outfielders and both catchers which boasted three all-conference selections a year ago. The young, but talented, players will a have a good group to learn from as many new faces will be starting in key positions in the infield. The pitching staff that has been assembled by Rushing and Pitching Coach Brent Fronabarger has great potential to be one of the best, but they will have to prove themselves to match the outstanding pitching from a year ago.
Coach Rushing believes he has assembled the talent to mesh with his existing team to defend their conference title and advance well into the NAIA postseason. The TranSouth Conference will welcome in Cumberland University, a team that has spent the last several seasons in the MidSouth Conference. Before that, Cumberland was a member, with Union, in the old Tennessee Colligate Athletic Conference (TCAC). The TranSouth is always one of the best in the nation and now has three teams ranked in the NAIA preseason polls; No. 12 Cumberland, No. 20 Union, and No. 27 Lee.
Union has once again assembled one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. The Bulldogs will play five games against NCAA Div. II opponents from North Alabama, Christian Brothers, and West Florida. In addition, Union plays 11 games against NAIA preseason top 25 opponents. Union begins their season in Montgomery, Alabama in the Capital City Classic in which they will play their first four games against No. 13 St. Thomas, No. 5 Faulkner, No. 14 North Georgia, and No. 16 Auburn-Montgomery.
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