Bid Falls Short for Oakland in 2003
Oakland opened the season with a pair
of losses to Elon and a loss to Davidson during its spring trip to the
Carolinas but managed to turn things around, winning 12 of its next 16
games. It started with a four-game sweep of Wofford College.
Billy Schmieder (Chillicothe,
Ohio) and Sullivan were named Mid-Con pitcher and player of the
week respectively for the week ending March 2nd as they led
the Golden Grizzlies to a 4-2 record during that span.
Oakland followed that up by taking three of four from Dayton
before splitting a four-game set with Butler.
Indiana Tech invaded Rochester for a
doubleheader and ended up spoiling Oaklands home opener by taking
game one. The Warriors may have been overlooked, shocking the Golden
Grizzlies with an 18-3 win. It
provided a wake-up call for the team, which allowed them to rebound
and take the second game 10-5.
The homestand continued with a
doubleheader against Siena Heights on March 27th.
The Saints gave Oakland all they could handle but the Black and
Gold managed to win each game by a one-run margin.
The hunter turned into the hunted
though as the Golden Grizzlies lost 13 of their next 14 games
beginning with a 10-5 loss at home to intrastate rival Eastern
Michigan. Eight days
later Oakland traveled to Columbus, Ohio for a doubleheader against
Ohio State. In the first
game Oakland took a 1-0 lead in the fifth.
The Buckeyes responded in the bottom of the inning by scoring
two runs and would hold on for the 2-1 win.
The pitching duel continued in the second game as Schmieder was
pitted against Greg Prenger. Prenger
would pitch a perfect game to lift Ohio State to a 2-0 win.
The lone win during that stretch came
at home in an 8-1 win over Madonna.
Oakland pounded out 10 hits, four by Gerry
Dufour (Windsor, Ont.) and took advantage of four Crusader
errors for the win.
They ran into some more problems,
losing the next five games. Mixed
in there were a couple disappointing one-run losses, including a 10-9
loss to Michigan. In that
game senior captain Peter Varon (Bloomfield
Hills, Mich.) hit a grand slam to give his team the lead, but a
six-run seventh inning by the Wolverines thwarted the Golden Grizzlies
chances for a victory.
Oakland opened up conference play at
home three days later as they hosted Western Illinois.
After the Leathernecks took two to open the series, the Golden
Grizzlies would put an end to the losing streak as they swept both
games the following day.
The following weekend Oakland split its
four-game series at home against Valparaiso.
Junior right handed pitcher, Steve
Kniebbe (Bridgeport, Mich.) remained perfect at 3-0 as he
pitched four and two-thirds innings, striking out six batters in the
third game, which resulted in a 10-7 Oakland win. He would finish the season at 4-1.
Following the series with Valparaiso,
Oakland headed to South Bend, Ind. to face #13 ranked Notre Dame. The Golden Grizzlies gave up three unearned runs as part of a
four-run first inning for the Irish.
Oakland held Notre Dame scoreless the rest of the way, but was
only able to get one run home themselves; suffering the tough three
With a 17-23 overall mark and a 4-4
conference record, Oakland got ready for its series at Chicago State. What should have been an opportunity for the Golden Grizzlies
to pick up four wins and improve their standing in the conference,
turned into a worst-case scenario as the Cougars stole game three in a
6-5, come from behind win. This
meant Oakland would have to win at least one game against Oral Roberts
to give it some breathing room as conference race heated up.
This would not become a reality for
Oakland. After defeating
Chicago State in the final game of the series, the Golden Grizzlies
lost their last 10 games. It
appeared Oakland was primed to win game three of the series against
Oral Roberts. With an
eight run lead in the fourth inning, the Golden Eagles chipped away
and would eventually take a 16-15 lead in the ninth inning with a
three-run home run from Andy Hargrove.
Thats the way it would end as Oral Roberts went on to win
game four 12-1.
Heading into its weekend series finale,
Oakland had to take two of four games from Mid-Con foe Southern Utah
to have a shot at the conference tournament.
The Golden Grizzlies had things going
their way on the first day of the series finale against Southern Utah,
but the Thunderbirds came from behind in the late innings to win both
games of the first doubleheader.
Southern Utah swept day two by scores of 9-8 and 4-2 to win all
four games and bring an end to Oaklands season and forcing them to
face the harsh reality of failing to make the conference tournament for the second
time in three years.
Tollison (Toledo, Ohio) and Kyle
Boehm (Rockford, Mich.) garnered first team All-Mid-Con honors
at the right field and pitching position respectively, while fellow
classmate John Sullivan (Saginaw,
Mich.) and junior Dominic Carmosino
(Cincinnati, Ohio) were selected to the second team.
Finishing the season at 20-34 overall
and fifth place in the conference at 7-13, the expectations that came
with the beginning of the season were not met.
This will leave Oakland looking for answers during the
offseason. The future
holds much promise for the Golden Grizzlies though as offensive
leaders, Tollison and Ryan
Frieburger (St. Clair Shores, Mich.) return for the 2004
season. They will look to
compliment a strong pitching staff that will return all but two from
the roster, which will ensure that Oaklands absence from postseason
play will not be a continuing trend.