The Union softball team seemed to save its best performances for last again this year as the Farmers overcame a 1-6 start to finish with a 10-11 record that included a season-ending six-game winning streak.
Union outscored its final six foes by an impressive 53-10 margin, including two shutouts.
Union closed last year’s 7-12 finish with a four-game winning streak following an 8-2 Union County Conference-Mountain Division loss at Brearley.
In similar fashion, Union rebounded from a 1-0 division loss at Brearley this year – on May 8 – to then knock off its final six opponents.
Union defeated Kent Place 2-0 at home on May 10, with state tournament team Kent Place owning a 10-3 record at the time.
The Farmers then defeated Dayton 3-2 at home, Millburn 7-4 at home and Hudson County foe Union City 10-0, also at home.
Teams that Union defeated that made the states in their sections included Scotch Plains, Millburn, Dayton, New Providence and Kent Place.
Union just missed qualifying in North 2, Group 4, with the Farmers being the 17th team in the section in terms of power points. The first 16 qualify.
Perhaps Union’s top win this season was the out-of-county one against Millburn. The Millers were the fourth seed in N2, G4 and advanced to the semifinals before falling at top-seeded North Hunterdon 4-0.
Next year will be the 10-year anniversary of Union last winning N2, G4 in 2009. Union also won the Union County Tournament that season for the still-record 11th time.
Union’s final road game was a decisive 21-4 triumph at Linden. Leading the way offensively for the Farmers were freshman third baseman Simone Casella with four hits and five RBI and junior catcher Arielle Roman with four hits and four RBI.
Putting together a sensational season, Roman was leading Union in batting average at a robust .619, home runs with six and RBI with 31.
“She’s close to her 100th hit,” said sixth-year Union head coach Kristin Nunes, a former Farmer standout softball player herself and a 1993 Union grad. “Arielle started out at first base her freshman year. She can play anywhere but pitcher.
“She’s also a very good fielder. Not many have stolen on her.”
Elizabeth Arias, another sophomore, had two home runs and Casella and fellow freshman Emily Schroeder one each.
“Simone came up a couple of games into the season,” Nunes said. “She hits the ball well too.”
Tamia Howell, a junior, was leading the team in stolen bases with 15.
“A left handed batter, Tamia slaps bunts from the right side,” Nunes said. “She’s an athlete, her first sport is soccer, and she works really hard. She’s made some amazing catches in left field.”
The hit leaders included Roman with 39, Howell with 28, sophomore pitcher Alyssa Thomas with 22, Casella with 18 and Arias with 15.
Thomas had a pitching record of 9-9 going into the Rahway contest. She also excelled on the mound last year as a freshman.
This season, Thomas had 144 strikeouts in 108 innings prior to the last game of the year.
“Alyssa definitely has gotten stronger and is really trying to work on her location of pitches, which has been good,” Nunes said. “She works hard every game and gives 100 percent. She also fields her position well.”
Union’s first win came at Valley Division foe New Providence 18-3 on April 19. Thomas struck out 10 and tossed a two-hitter. Union scored in all five innings with Casella driving in six runs and Roman five.
Union went 1-1 in UCT competition. The 14th-seeded Farmers won at home against 19th-seeded Roselle Catholic 17-0 in a preliminary round game.
In first round play, Union was defeated at third-seeded Westfield 3-2 in its final game played in April – on April 30. Westfield ended up reaching the final, losing to top-seeded Roselle Park 2-0 at Kean University.
“Against Westfield Alyssa was really hitting her spots with her pitches,” Nunes said.
Union took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth before Westfield scored all the runs it needed in the bottom of the inning. Union scored the game’s final run in the top of the fifth. Roman led Union with three hits.
Union defeated Roselle Catholic again on May 4, this time by the score of 16-1 in Roselle, for its fourth win.
The Farmers finished 2-7 in the Mountain Division, with a split with Dayton and a split with Scotch Plains, beating both teams at home and losing to both on the road.
Union was not able to make up its home division game against Benedictine. Roselle Park won the Mountain Division outright for the third straight season and for the second time undefeated.
Union won three more games than last year and lost one less. A winning streak of six games was realized for the first time in a while.
“At the end of the season every one really woke up,” Nunes said.
FARMERS BLANK RAHWAY 10-0 TO CONCLUDE AT 10-11
Union won its second game in its final three by shutout and won by shutout for the fourth time this year when the Farmers closed with a 10-0 Union County Conference-crossover win over Valley Division foe Rahway last Thursday.
“We didn’t get 10-run ruled and were very competitive in all of our games,” Nunes said. “We made some errors and have to work on that, but in time we’ll develop a much stronger team.”
Among Union’s starting nine, the only player that will be lost to graduation is senior center fielder Lizruby Alicea.
“We have a young team with a lot of talent that will develop over the next couple of years.” Nunes said.
UNION SOFTBALL 2018:
Pitcher: Alyssa Thomas, sophomore RH
Catcher: Arielle Roman, junior
First baseman: Emily Schroeder, freshman
Second baseman: Kaitlyn Marques, freshman
Third baseman: Simone Casella, freshman
Shortstop: Elizabeth Arias, sophomore
Left fielder: Tamia Howell, junior
Center fielder: Lizruby Alicea, senior
Right fielder: Lauren Baran, junior
April 6: Roselle Park 8, Union 0 – at Roselle Park – Mountain Division
April 10: Brearley 3, Union 1 – at Union – Mountain Division
April 12: Dayton 5, Union 1 – at Dayton – Mountain Division
April 18: Gov. Livingston 10, Union 1 – at GL
April 19: Union 18, New Providence 3 – at New Providence
April 20: Benedictine 6, Union 4 – at Bendictine – Mountain Division
April 23: Scotch Plains 14, Union 7 – at Union – Mountain Division
April 24: Union 17, Roselle Catholic 0 – UCT preliminary round at Union
April 26: Union 13, Scotch Plains 5 – at Scotch Plains – Mountain Division
April 30: Westfield 3, Union 2 – UCT first round at Westfield
May 1: Roselle Park 9, Union 1 – at Union – Mountain Division
May 3: Cranford 4, Union 1 – at Cranford
May 4: Union 16, Roselle Catholic 1 – at RC
May 7: Summit 5, Union 2 – at Summit
May 8: Brearley 1, Union 0 – at Brearley – Mountain Division
May 10: Union 2, Kent Place 0 – at Union
May 11: Union 3, Dayton 2 – at Union – Mountain Division
May 14: Union 7, Millburn 4 – at Union
May 18: Union 10, Union City 0 – at Union
May 21: Union 21, Linden 4 – at Linden
May 24: Union 10, Rahway 0 – at Union