By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
As the starting pitcher the past three years for the state’s winningest program, Megan Baldwin planned on playing college softball. It was something she expected as long as she can remember.
“I just always imagined going to play softball somewhere,” Baldwin said.
When interest from Berea and Eastern Kentucky University didn’t work out, it left an opening for Union College. The Lady Bulldogs were a late arrival in the recruiting of Baldwin.
Michelle Baldwin, Megan’s mother, contacted Union coach Becky Bishop a couple of months ago when the plans to attend Berea fell through. Maybe Union College was just the place Baldwin was supposed to be all along.
“It turned out good for us because I was looking for a pitcher that could dominate,” Bishop said.
Bishops first look at Baldwin was an arranged tryout with just the coach, the pitcher, and a catcher that was also trying to earn her way onto the team. Bishop said it can be a stressful set up for a young player.
“Pitching one-on-one with a coach that’s trying to recruit you and Megan still seemed really confident and that shows a lot of character,” Bishop said.
Although former North Laurel players such as Abby Sears have had outstanding careers in Barbourville, there are currently no North Laurel players on the Union College roster. Union does seem a perfect fit for more reasons than the short drive.
“I’m going to start making more contact with a lot of these players,” Bishop said.
It isn’t that Bishop didn’t know about North Laurel. She only officially got the job last week. Bishop had been the interim coach since February. Bishop played college softball at the University of Kentucky, but just missed being a teammate of North Laurel coach Becky Osborne. Bishop is also familiar with North Laurel from her playing days at Boone County High School.
“It was a great rival for us because they were a dominating team down here and we were a dominating team up North. It was always very exciting games, especially when Becky (Osborne) was pitching,” Bishop said.
Although Bishop hopes that means more North Laurel players, it starts for her with Baldwin.
“There are a couple of little things we need to tweak here and there, but once we get all that straight ended out I’ve got a pitching coach I’m going to hire this summer and I think she’ll be able to make an immediate impact,” Bishop said.
Baldwin has played with the varsity since her eighth grade year and started on the mound the past three. Among her awards is Region MVP the past two years.
“It’s an honor to wear the Jaguars uniform, but you still have to work for it. Nothing is handed down to you,” Baldwin said.
Osborne wasn’t surprised that Baldwin did well in her tryout and that she impressed Bishop with her confidence.
“Megan is very strong-willed. She’s got a good head on her shoulders. Union is getting an asset with Megan,” Osborne said.
Osborne said the biggest adjustment from high school to college isn’t on the field.
“The college level is so much different when you are a player there. With your high school team there is unity because you are real close. In college you are more there like a job,” Osborne said.