UNION'S SENIOR SEVEN LOOKING FORWARD TO FUTURE
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
Graduation is not too far off for the seven seniors on Union's softball team.
Although the Bobcats probably have thoughts of embarking on college life, there's still one thing in high school that needs attention: a successful post-season run.
As of Saturday, the Bobcats were alone in first place in the Eastern Oregon League with a 5-1 conference record. They have five league doubleheaders left before the district tournament May 24.
Last year, Union won its first district title and was beaten at state by Knappa in the Bobcats' third year of play.
Pitcher Jennifer Sasser, first baseman Jana Brotherton, catcher Jaycee Waite, shortstop DeeAnna Hall, center fielder Colbi Robertson, third baseman Melissa Helmer and utility player Christi Pierce definitely enjoy softball.
"We're all such good friends," Hall said. "We love to play softball."
Hall, Waite, Helmer, Robertson, Brotherton and Sasser were members of the 2A state championship volleyball team.
Hall will attend Boise State University and major in nursing because it pays well and that's what she wants to do.
Moving to La Grande
Helmer, Brotherton and Sasser will attend Eastern Oregon University in the fall. Brotherton and Helmer will suit up for the Mountaineer volleyball team. Sasser does not know if she'll play at Eastern.
Brotherton was the volleyball 2A state player of the year and first-team all-state selection. Helmer was named to the second-team all-state volleyball team.
Helmer will major in elementary education. She admits playing the "corner" in softball is dangerous. She was hit in the stomach on a line drive a few weeks ago.
"The reputation there is that you get hit," she said. "I like bunting. I like to play defense."
Brotherton will major in special education and physical education.
"I like working with kids," she said.
Brotherton was also on the basketball team this past winter.
She said her teammates do not pick at each other's errors and it makes each new team she plays on close.
"I enjoy the time we spend together," Brotherton said. "All of us sitting here we're the last original softball team at Union."
Sasser likes to be called "Sass." She admits she does not answer anymore when someone says "Jennifer."
Sass, who will major in special education and music, is unhittable from the mound when she gets it going.
Sass said she lied to Coach Steve Robertson in the sixth grade when she told him she could pitch. She had no pitching experience at that time.
"I've improved over time," she said.
Sass plays the flute in band, and is in the drama club and choir.
From catcher to outfield
Waite will attend the University of Idaho and major in secondary education and Spanish.
As a catcher, she has many responsibilities.
"I'm in every play," she said. "If I'm not, they (the coaches and team) let me know."
She added, "I'm the easy one to yell at."
"We have control after we make a couple points obviously," she said. "We play good defense."
Waite said the collisions are not a favorite aspect.
"I usually get run over," she said.
She has not picked a fight when that happens either.
"I'm strong," Waite said.
Robertson will attend Southern Oregon University and is undecided on a specific major, although political science interests her.
She also has a "fear" of squirrels.
Last month, she kept throwing rocks at a ground squirrel playing hide-and-seek at an Elgin doubleheader. She missed the squirrel and almost hit the catcher while they were watching the game.
"We keep each other entertained," Robertson said about playing in the outfield.
"I think it's the hardest position," said Robertson, whose father is the coach and whose mother helps with team organization. "You go through innings with nothing happening. It's hard to be ready each pitch."
It may not be easy having dad as coach and mom involved in the organizational aspects, but she enjoys it.
"We want to be better than last year," she said.
Pierce is the shy one. She will attend Blue Mountain Community College and major in dental hygiene.
"They're all nice," she said of the seniors.
Robertson said she's so proud of Pierce because she has never missed a practice.
"She's dedicated 100 percent to softball," Sass said.
Coach weighs in
"We started pretty much with nothing," Coach Robertson said.
The Bobcats won one league game their first season and another league game their second season. Then, they went 11-1 in league and 15-4 overall last year.
The girls went to the school board and got teacher support to back the softball program. During their first year, they played on the high school boys field.
Robertson knows the girls so well that he lets them call him "Stever."
"They've been in my refrigerator more times than I have," he said.
"We hope to have a great season and have fun," Helmer said.
"We're the original all-stars," she said.
The girls emphasize how important Robertson's mom, Tammy, is to the team.
Sass said Tammy tells her which batters are coming up and tells Colbi that those hitters will hit to you in the outfield.
"She can't hit," Sass recalls Tammy saying during the games. "Throw it (the pitch) down the middle."
Brotherton said she hopes the future softball teams remember they were good players and follow in their footsteps.