Second.

If the Union softball Lady ’Cats had a theme this season, second fit.

Union finished second in the Four Rivers Conference with a league record of 6-1 and the team went 17-8 overall, losing to Borgia in the Class 3 District 4 championship game to Borgia, 3-2.

Coming off of a trip to the Class 3 quarterfinals in 2016, the Lady ’Cats returned five starters from last year’s team, but had to shuffle players around this season.

A secondary theme this season was change. Union had to shuffle around its returning starters to different positions leading up to the season.

Kelsie Hardester, initially scheduled to start at third base, moved into the circle and became the main pitcher. She was 17-8 overall while pitching in 25 games. She threw 141 innings with a 2.73 ERA. She walked 52 and struck out 134 batters.

Last year’s pitcher, Lauren Boyd, moved to shortstop. MSHSAA instituted a mask requirement for pitchers this season and she declined to put on a mask. Boyd still filled a primary role, playing shortstop while hitting .518 with 11 doubles, one triple and five home runs.

Last year’s shortstop, Georgie Bray, moved to third base and she manned the hot corner while hitting .476 with 11 doubles and three triples.

Union’s other returning starters were catcher Amanda Downing (.357 with nine doubles and two triples), first baseman Sydney Eads (.344 with eight doubles, one triple and one home run) and second baseman Kalyee Bunch (.350).

Union had to rebuild its outfield and got a number of different contributions. Elisabeth Scharfenberg (.278 with one double and four triples) moved into Kori Fiedler’s position in center field and provided solid defense.

Trinitty Stevens (.349 with two doubles) was the initial left fielder, but was limited due to injury. Victoria Suerig (.200) later took over the position.

In right field, Adrianna Trenholm (.188 with two doubles), a freshman, grabbed the starting spot and never let go. Trenholm also played for Union’s golf team this fall.

Union opened the season by finishing third in the Union Tournament. It was the first time the event was moved to Veterans Memorial Park from the Union Sorts Complex. A 2-1 loss to Pacific in the semifinals was something the Lady ’Cats remembered for later in the season.

Coming out of the tournament, Union fell to Hillsboro, considered a strong candidate for the state tournament this season, but won by eight runs over two-time defending Class 3 state champion Warrenton, 12-4.

The Four Rivers Conference opener at Sullivan was another setback for the Lady ’Cats. Sullivan’s Addison Purvis threw a no-hitter while striking out 13 in an 8-0 victory.

Union bounced back and didn’t drop a FRC game after that. The run included a 13-0 win at Pacific.

Union went 2-2 in the Cor Jesu Tournament and later won the Ft. Zumwalt North Tournament with wins over Duchesne, Winfield and Fox.

Down the stretch, Union dropped a 1-0 decision at Borgia and that game determined the top two seeds for the district tournament.

Washington, which won its Class 4 district title, edged Union in the final home game, 5-3.

In the district tournament, Union rallied from a deficit to defeat Pacific in the district semifinals before falling to Borgia in the championship game.

Union graduates four players from this year’s team with Bray, Scharfenberg, Stevens and Suerig leaving in the spring.

That means Union will have to fill two outfield spots and third base next season.