Baseball 2000 Outlook
The Oakland University baseball team has one year of Division I competition under its belt and have made many changes to adjust to the level of play needed for Division I competition. This year marks the first year that Oakland will be able to compete in the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament. The 2000 season also marks the first year that the Golden Grizzlies will be eligible to compete as a Division I program for the NCAA Tournament. "Our main goal is to make the Mid-Con tournament," OU head coach Mark Avery said. "If we make the conference tournament then we have a chance to go to the regionals, and you never know what can happen. "Last year was a transition year for the whole team," said Avery. "It was my first year as a head coach and the teams first year competing at the Division I level. We proved that we can compete at this level and this year we have to take the next step and start winning games. "We have made many changes in order for us to compete at this level," Avery said. "We have added more talent and depth than we had last year, but that doesn't always translate into more wins." In 1999 the Golden Grizzlies went 17-25 overall and 9-11 in the Mid-Continent Conference. OU picked up victories in the Mid-Continent Conference by sweeping IUPUI, and splitting with Valparaiso, Youngstown State and Chicago State. The most notable victory of 1999 was a 12-4 win against the University of Michigan. Oakland brings a lot of strengths to the diamond this year that may have been missing in the past. "Our main strength will be pitching," said Avery. "Last year we weren't very deep so the top six or seven guys threw all the innings. This year the difference between one and 11 is a lot slimmer, so we have a lot of guys that can pitch a lot of innings. We are going to need that because we have 56 games that's scheduled, approximately 450 innings and we only have 11 pitchers." Oakland also brought in a lot of junior college players and college transfers to give the Golden Grizzlies the experience they need on the field. "How well the transfers perform will determine how far we go," said Avery. "We know what to expect with the players returning, and hopefully we brought in some players that can help us out."
OU's main weakness will be their offense. "We still aren't offensively as strong as I'd like to be," Avery said. Its going to take a little while to recruit the type of athlete that can get it done offensively. Oakland's captains for the 2000 season will be seniors Sean Boesch (Sr., RHP, Sacramento, CA) and Chuck Van Robays (Sr., C, Rochester). Here's a look at how OU will stack up at each position in the 2000 season.
Senior captain Boesch will be the number one starter for the Golden Grizzlies. Competing for the 2-5 spots will be Justin Robertson (Jr., RHP, Lapeer), Eric Swanson (Jr., LHP, Berkley), Gordon Hosbein (So., RHP, St. Joseph), Jeff Gatch (Jr., RHP, Milford, OH) and Kurt Spyke (Jr., LHP, Fruitport). Last season Boesch led OU in innings pitched with 65.1, starts with 12, complete games with two, saves with two and shutouts with one. He had a 3-5 record, a 5.65 ERA and appeared in 16 games which was tied for second on Oakland's pitching staff. Robertson had a record of 3-5 with a 6.27 ERA, pitched one complete game in 51.2 innings pitched and was fourth on the team with 32 strikeouts last season. Swanson was third on the team in strikeouts with 33. He pitched 33 innings allowing 25 earned runs and posted a 6.82 ERA. He had a record of 1-4 on the season, combined in one shutout and his opponents batted only .269 against him. Hosbein started four games last season in 14 appearances for OU and combined for two shutouts. He had a 1-2 record with a 7.36 ERA, threw 29.1 innings, struck out 25 batters and was tied for the lead in games finished with seven. Gatch is a transfer from Aquinas Junior College in Nashville, Tennessee. As a freshman he was 10-1 with a 1.87 ERA, had 97 strikeouts, 43 walks and four saves. Spyke is a transfer from Lake Michigan Community College where he had a 2.82 ERA with an 8-2 record. Filling in the role of middle relievers and spot starters will be Jason Roberts (Jr., LHP, Fenton), Adam Sokoll (Jr., RHP, Lake Orion), Brent Brown (Fr., LHP, Niles) and Kirk Anderson (Fr., RHP, Washington). Last season Roberts led the Golden Grizzlies with 18 appearances, including 17 games in relief. He was fourth on the team in innings pitched with 36.2 and third on the team with a 3.93 ERA. Roberts had a record of 1-4 with one combined shutout and 36 strikeouts. He finished seven games, which was tied for the lead and the opponents were only batting .239 against him. Sokoll had the lowest ERA on the team with a 2.35 last season. He had two combined shutouts with a 3-0 record and 14 strikeouts. Anderson is a freshman from Rochester Adams High School. During his last two seasons at Adams he pitched 43 innings, had a record of 7-2 and struck out 57 batters. Brown is a freshman from Brandywine High School where he was a three sport athlete. Solidifying the closing role will be junior transfer Trevor Seyka. He transferred to OU from Kellogg Community College where he led the nation in saves in 1999.
Van Robays will be the starting catcher for the Golden Grizzlies in 2000. Last season he started all 40 of the games he played in for the Golden Grizzlies. He was third on the team with a .301 batting average, in hits (41), RBI (24) and was tied for second in walks with 18. He threw out 27 base runners from behind the plate and had 245 putouts. Matt Gabrielli (So., Novi) and Mike Patterson (So., Utica) will also see time behind the plate. Patterson saw action in 31 games for the Golden Grizzlies last season. He batted .213 with 19 hits, 12 runs scored and nine RBI. Gabrielli is a transfer from Detroit-Mercy where he hit .208 with seven RBI, 15 hits and six runs scored in 72 at-bats last season.
Peter Varon (So., Bloomfield Hills) and Patterson will share time at first base this year. Last season Varon played in 27 games, batting .219 in 64 at-bats. He had 14 hits, five runs scored, 11 RBI, and 18 total bases.
Michael Bennion (So., Auburn Hills) and Jeremy Isherwood (Jr., Spokane, WA) will and compete for the starting job at second base. Bennion started 23 of the 27 games he played last season. He batted .283 in 93 at-bats with 26 hits, eight runs scored and 11 RBI. He had a .922 fielding percentage in 77 chances. Isherwood is a transfer from North Idaho Community College where he hit .302 with seven home runs, 12 doubles and 44 RBI his sophomore season.
Rob Brockman (Jr., Park Hills, KY) will get the starting nod at third base this year. Erik Crossley (Jr., Woodhaven) will also see time at third. Brockman is a transfer from Aquinas Junior College in Nashville, Tennessee. As a sophomore at AJC he batted .376 with 12 doubles and 20 homers. He broke the all-time home run record of 13, led the team in home runs, average, RBI, doubles and was named team MVP. Crossley played in 24 games last season. He hit .196 with three home runs, 11 hits, eight runs scored and eight RBI.
OU's starter at shortstop will be Chris Kimball (So., Midland). Last season he started 41 games and had a .253 batting average in 146 at-bats. He was second on the team in runs scored with 28 and sacrifice bunts with five. He had 37 hits, 23 RBI, 54 total bases and a .938 fielding percentage.
The starting spots in the outfield will be manned by Nick DiPonio (So., Highland), Casey Caid (Jr., Three Oaks) and Kip Harris (Jr., Midland). Harris, who will start in right field, batted .276 in 134 at-bats with 37 hits last season. He had 35 runs scored, 23 RBI and started in 37 games. Caid will start in center field. He is a transfer from Lake Michigan Community College where he hit 390 with nine home runs and 61 RBI as a sophomore and was a Junior College all-American in 1998 and 1999. DiPonio is a transfer from Detroit-Mercy where he hit .283 with 10 RBI, 14 runs scored, and 26 hits in 92 at-bats during his freshman year. Also seeing time in the outfield will be Jeff Hall (Fr., Perrysburgh), John Hitt (Fr., Rochester Hills), Spencer Hynes (Fr., Waterford) and Josh Patton (Fr., Troy).
The Golden Grizzlies are up to the challenge of competing at the Division I level and in the Mid-Continent Conference. Besides the teams in the conference Oakland will be playing Georgia Tech, Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Bowling Green State this season. "The strength of our schedule will give our team the experience we need to succeed at the Division I level," said Avery. "The tougher the schedule the more we will benefit at the end of the season and on to next year."