UNION – Since May 10 of last year the Union Farmers have won 23 of their 29 games played since.
Union softball – at a semi-dominating level – is back.
Union followed up winning its final six games last year by producing a very satisfying 17-6 mark this year that was capped with Tuesday’s season-ending 6-0 home win over Scotch Plains.
With that triumph Union clinched the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division championship outright for the first time and did so with a league mark of 8-2.
Union was the conference’s final division champion, with Westfield winning the Watchung, Benedictine the Valley and Plainfield the Sky earlier.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE
WATCHUNG – Westfield
MOUNTAIN – Union
VALLEY – Benedictine
SKY – Plainfield
The Farmers produced the program’s first winning season since 2010.
“One of our goals was to win 15 teams, so we did better than that,” said senior catcher Arielle Roman, who earlier this year became Union’s first player since 2015 to reach and pass 100 career hits.
Roman led Union in batting once again, this time with a robust .524 average. She also paced the Farmers with 44 hits, 37 RBI, three triples, 10 doubles and six home runs.
Union also finished strong down the stretch once again, concluding with a three-game winning streak this time and coming out on top in eight of its last nine contests.
Union returned eight starters this year, with the Farmers going 1-1 in Union County Tournament and North 2, Group 4 play – ousted both times by Westfield.
Next year’s squad will return seven starters, so the immediate future continues to look bright.
“I can’t wait to come back next year when I can to see the team play,” said Roman, who will continue playing in college on the Division 3 level at Centenary.
Roman drove in Union’s final run of the season on a hard-hit double to left that drove in junior shortstop Elizabeth Arias to make the score 6-0 Union over Scotch Plains in the bottom of the fourth.
Arias, in the at-bat before, went the opposite way to right field to produce a three-run single that extended Union’s lead to 5-0.
Leadoff batter Tamia Howell, also a senior, drove in Union’s second run with an RBI-double. Union took the lead for good with two runs in the second.
Howell will continue playing soccer and softball at Rutgers-Newark.
Roman, Arias and Howell served as Union’s captains.
Junior right hander Alyssa Thomas blanked Scotch Plains on a two-hitter for her third straight shutout. Union outscored its final three foes 27-0 after falling to Westfield in the North 2, Group 4 quarterfinals.
Against Scotch Plains Tuesday, Thomas – who finished the season with a record of 12-6 – got out of a bases-loaded jam in the third by striking out the inning’s final batter looking.
Thomas ended Union’s season by striking out the final Scotch Plains batter swinging.
“Alyssa improved, especially with her placement,” Roman said. “I can’t wait to see her next year.”
Backup pitcher Kaiya Simpkins, a freshman, also performed well on the mound, finishing with a 5-0 record. She suffered a season-ending leg injury in Union’s first division win over Summit on May 10.
Union got out strong to a 4-0 start that included three one-run victories. After almost coming back against Westfield, the Farmers suffered losses to Union Catholic and Roselle Park to fall to 4-3.
Union rebounded by winning five of its next six, the only defeat in that stretch coming to Westfield in the UCT quarterfinals.
Union’s second of its two division losses followed at home against Dayton 4-2 on May 8. After that the Farmers went 8-1 the rest of the way.
Union’s two division losses came from splitting with Union Catholic and Dayton.
“Our bond was so much better this year, we really worked well together,” Roman said.
Roman will study Animal Health Science (pre-Veterinarian) at Centenary.
“It will be fun and exciting and a new experience,” Roman said. “I didn’t start playing softball until I was in 6th grade, which is very late. Once I started playing in high school I had the ambition to play in college.”
Union head coach Kristin Nunes, at the helm of the Farmers since 2013, was more than pleased with this season’s results.
“I’m very proud, the girls worked very hard,” Nunes said. “We won our last six games last year and that kind of carried over.
“Leadership was very important. Also, sometimes it was the bottom of the order that got us going and other times it was top. One would pick up the other.”
RETURNING STARTERS FOR THE 2020 SEASON:
Alyssa Thomas at pitcher – will be a senior
Emily Schroeder at first base – will be a junior
Simone Casella at third base – will be a junior
Kaitlyn Marques at third base – will be a junior
Elizabeth Arias at shortstop – will be a senior
Kaiya Simpkins in center field – will be a sophomore
Kailey McDonough in right field – will be a sophomore
A GOOD CAST IS WORTH REPEATING
Union Farmers 17-6 overall
And the UCC’s Mountain Division champions at 8-2:
2-Elizabeth Arias, junior
1-Lauren Baran, senior
10-Simone Casella, sophomore
4-Tamia Howell, senior
8-Ciara Johnson, senior
3-Kaitlyn Marques, sophomore
7-Kailey McDonough, freshman
Emma Radler, junior
14-Arielle Roman, senior
15-Emily Schroeder, junior
11-Kaiya Simpkins, freshman
13-Alyssa Thomas, junior
6-Zaziah Wilson, senior
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE
FINAL MOUNTAIN DIVISION
1-Union (8-2) – outright champions
2-Union Catholic (7-3)
5-Scotch Plains (3-7)