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Union softball is young, enthused and ready for 2019 season

May 25, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Head Coach: Laurie Driscol

2018 Record: 11-16 (L in Regionals to Crestwood)

Coach Laurie Driscol's first year at the helm of the Union softball program in 2018 saw a relatively young, inexperienced roster battle in the NICL East for a fourth place finish. Though returning key pieces from last year's squad, the Lady Knights once again find themselves young and searching for an identity with the pieces they have this season.

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"With last year's team, we knew from the start we had a lot of spaces to fill because of many new faces in the lineup," Driscol said. "Everywhere we put these kids on the field, they did exactly what was asked of them. We ended up fourth in the conference, which we felt was a good spot considering the previous year finished third. Everyone played hard and we had a lot of fun last season."

Once again, the Lady Knights will seeking to fill positions after the departure of seniors Emma Peters and Haylee Keune last year. 1st Team NICL East selection Allie Driscol will move into centerfield previously occupied by Peters, yet filling in for the athletic Keune will be no easy task.

"Haylee was all over the places for us at third, short and second," Driscol said. "It's tough to say you're filling one position when Haylee filled several as a jack-of-all-trades. Emma could really put the bat on the ball, whether it was to bunt or get a good hit somewhere and she had such good leadership. We're trying different people in different places, much like a repeat of last year. Once again, we'll have some experience on the field, but also inexperience."

One thing Driscol can count on is a can-do attitude from the young team, describing them as "incredibly positive" and a fun group ready to learn. Union will only have two upperclassmen in senior Kayla Robb and junior Natalie Tecklenburg, but experienced sophomores, along with several freshman will give Driscol pieces to move around to find the fielding and lineups.

"I could pick any position on the field and feel great about putting Natalie in it," Driscol said. "She's a captain on the field with a calming presence and keeps everyone in place. Sarah Roberts comes back after pitching half the games last season. Everyone needs a Sarah on their team because she has an upbeat attitude that is wonderful for us. Allie is good wheels on the bases. Kayla comes back to first base. Jocelyn Gates moved around last year and I wish we could have several of her out on the field at once. Ellie Behrens did some good right field work for us. Madelon got some chances near the tail end of last season. There's several back, they'll just have to play bigger role."

Roberts, who posted a 5-6 record pitching in 2018, will be taking on a vast majority of the pitching work, with several sophomores currently working on their pitching and Tecklenburg coming out on occasion to pitch. The All-Conference catcher will also be fielded at times during the season after a strong performance at shortstop at the tail end of the 2018 season. After posting a .476 average batting last season, Tecklenburg wants to further improve her hitting to continue sending Gates home after the then eighth grade posted a team-high 29 runs last season.

"I'm excited for the chance to improve this season and figure out how much better we can get over the year," Tecklenburg said. "I see a successful season as pushing it in practice, hard work and having confidence in each other while being positive."

For the lone returning senior, Robb will be tasked with leading the young team by example from first base and will be asked to step up more with hitting this season.

"I definitely feel we have a younger team this season, but there's a lot of improvement that can happen over the summer," Robb said. "We're definitely an athletic team, but we're figuring out where everyone is going to play and what positions is the hardest part. I feel anyone could be thrown into any position as we figure out this season."

In addition to a tough conference slate again in 2019, the Lady Knights will take on new non-conference faces in North Tama and South Tama as they search through different lineups and fielding around the experienced core of Gates, Tecklenburg, Driscol and Robb.

"The sky is the limit for this team," Driscol said. "We have two powerhouses in our conference with Columbus and Jesup, both stellar teams. We want to be in all games with the opportunity to win. It would be great to finish fourth again or compete for that third spot in the conference once again. No matter what sport you pick, this area is always so tough."

Though low on upperclassmen, Robb knows her experience can help this young team push to improve over last year's results.

"I want to put it all out on the field this season as a senior, to not regret anything," Robb said. "This is my last season and I really want to enjoy this summer. Success means admitting and learning from mistakes because everyone is just trying to help one another."

Union opened their season at Wapsie Valley for a double-header on Wednesday, May 22, and will participate in a tournament in Williamsburg on Saturday, May 25 before their home opener against Dike-New Hartford on Tuesday, May 28.



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