Oakland Earns Second Consecutive 20-Win Season in 2004

     Oakland baseball had a rough start to its 2004 campaign as they dropped the first eight games of the season.  A four-game tilt against Kansas got things going as part of the teamís spring trip.  The Golden Grizzlies hung with the Jayhawks in the first two meetings before being edged by scores of 6-3 and 7-2.  The last two games proved to be a different story altogether though as they fell 17-4 and 17-2.  Oakland wrapped things up down south with a pair of tough losses against Eastern Kentucky.  The Colonels squeaked out a 10-9 decision and a 22-18 slugfest. 

Herriott earned second-team all-conference honors and led the Mid-Con with 18 homeruns.

     The next six games took place on the road against interstate rivals Wright State and Ohio University.  Oakland once again was on the losing end of two more close games, including a 3-2, 17-inning marathon.  The teamís tenacity would finally pay off the very next day against Wright State as Oakland picked up its first win of the season with a 9-6 decision.  Starting pitcher Kyle Boehm took care of things on the mound to earn the decision while Ty Herriott led the offense with a pair of homeruns. 

     The Golden Grizzlies went on to win their next three games after that, sweeping Ohio in a three-game set before beating Detroit, 4-2, in the opening game of the Michigan Classic on March 27th Michael Trosen aided the cause with impressive numbers during Oaklandís first three wins.  He hit .455 with five hits in 11 at-bats, six RBI, two runs, two doubles and a homerun.  He also had a .909 slugging percentage and a .455 on-base mark, which earned him Mid-Con Player of the Week honors. 

     Michigan spoiled Oaklandís run though just hours after the Detroit win, snapping their five-game win streak and sending the team into a tailspin that saw them drop their next 10-games over a two week span.  The fact that Oakland was competing against top-tier teams in Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Ohio State during that stretch provided little solace as their record fell to 5-18 following a 14-4 loss against the Buckeyes.

     The team regrouped and went on to win five of their next eight.  Boehm once again came through to get Oakland back in the win column with a 4-3 decision at home against Madonna on April 9th.  Following a shocking loss to Rochester College, Oakland came back to earn a 5-4 win at home against Central Michigan for the first time in over five years.  Freshman Ryan Heath tripled to bring in the tying run in the tenth inning and scored the winning run on the same play as the Chippewas made an error trying to throw him out at third.  Brad Morenko allowed just three hits and struck out two batters over the final five innings to pick up the win.

Boehm led the team with 73 strikeouts and was an Academic All-Mid-Con pick.

     After falling to Notre Dame, Oakland took three out of four from Southern Utah at home to open up Mid-Con play.  Game one starter Steve Kniebbe got Oakland started in the right direction, earning a 9-3 decision.  He allowed only one earned run on six hits and fanned six batters in eight innings of work.  Herriott hit a three-run blast in the third inning to put the Golden Grizzlies ahead to stay and tally his ninth homerun of the season.  Southern Utah rebounded to take game two on the day, forcing Oakland to settle for a doubleheader split.

     Oakland responded the next day by taking both games.  In game one pitcher Dominic Carmosino dominated the Thunderbirds, striking out a season-high eight hitters.  He went eight innings and allowed only one earned run on six hits in an 8-5 win.  Freshman Kurt Rosenacker provided some more last inning heroics for Oakland in game two of the series finale with a walk-off homerun to give his team a 17-15 win.  That brought Oaklandís overall record to 10-21 and gave them a 3-1 mark in the conference.

     The next conference series saw Oakland head to Valparaiso to take on the Crusaders.  The Golden Grizzlies were in fear of being swept as they dropped the first three games before sophomore Billy Schmieder pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing only two hits and striking out eight batters, for a 4-0 win in the final game.

     After dropping its second meeting with Toledo, Oakland picked up a pair of game two wins in its doubleheader weekend at Western Illinois.  Boehm and Carmosino each picked up their third win of the season.  Boehm pitched a complete game, two-hit, shutout with five strikeouts in day one for the 6-0 victory.  Carmosino also went the distance the following day, allowing three runs on six hits, while recording six strikeouts in a 5-3 decision. 

     Following the Western Illinois series Oakland stood at 13-27 overall and 6-6 in the Mid-Con.  They stood tied for third place in the conference with Valparaiso behind Western and frontrunner, Oral Roberts.  Centenary held the final playoff spot at fourth place, but was just two games behind the Golden Grizzlies.  With 12 of Oaklandís remaining 14 games taking place in conference, and a series finale showdown with Centenary yet to come, it appeared a bid in the conference tournament might come down to the last day of the season. 

Carmosino led Oakland with
13 starts and
73.1 innings pitched.

     Before all the drama would unfold though Oakland had a chance to improve its position in the conference standings as they hosted Chicago State in a four-game swing.  Oakland got the series started off right with a 7-6 win that required a come-from-behind effort.  After trailing by four runs late in the game, Oakland reeled off five runs over the final three innings.  Ryan Freiburger sealed the win with the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth to drive in Bryan Marulli and give Morenko the win.  Chicago State came back and managed to squeak out a win in the second game by a 6-4 count. 

     The Golden Grizzlies sought vengeance the next day by taking both games from the Cougars.  They took out their frustrations from the previous days loss in game one with a 22-1 pasting.  Carmosino pitched a complete game for the win and did not allow Chicago Stateís run until the last inning.  He allowed seven hits and recorded seven strikeouts.  Four different players homered for Oakland, including two from Herriott. 

     It took a little longer for Oakland to score in game two but the result was the same with a 4-2 win.  Rosenacker hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth to drive in Marulli, who beat the tag on a bunt single one batter earlier, as part of a three-run inning.  Marulli finished 5-for-8 on the day with two RBIs and three runs scored to help Herriott in pacing the Oakland offense.

     Oakland picked up two more wins in non-conference action, to match its longest streak of the season at five games.  Once again the Golden Grizzlies edged Central Michigan by a 2-1 score to start a seven-game road trip.  Morenko pitched five and 2-3 shutout innings and allowed just two hits.  Tim Doig and John Sullivan drove in both runs with back-to-back doubles in the sixth inning.  The next day Heath hit a two-run double in the eighth inning to guide Oakland to a 9-5 win over Bowling Green.

     Oaklandís win streak came to a halt in Tulsa, Okla. when they were swept in a four-game set against Oral Roberts.  They rebounded with an exciting 12-8 win at Eastern Michigan.  Marulli hit a three-run homerun with two outs in the ninth, to help cap off a six-run inning.  Freshman Scott Boleski picked up his second win of the season for the Golden Grizzlies.

     The skid against Oral Roberts forced Oakland into a must-win situation as they hosted Centenary in a four-game series to close out the season.  Both teams needed an edge in the series finale as they battled for the final playoff spot in the conference tournament.

Sullivan was named first-team
all-conference and finished the season on a 19-game hitting streak.

     Centenary gained the advantage in the first game with a 12-10 win over Oakland.  Despite a pair of homeruns from conference leader Ty Herriott, Centenary managed to hang on.  Oakland displayed resilience by responding with six runs over three innings in game two though and captured a 6-4 win to keep its playoff hopes alive.  Freiburger drove in the winning run in the fourth inning with a single to right field.

     Getting the final two games in the following day proved to be a problem as overnight downpours flooded OU Field.  This forced the teams to travel to Blissfield, Michigan for the second doubleheader.  Sullivan accounted for one-third of Oaklandís hits with a 2-for-4 performance at the plate that included a two-run homerun in the fourth inning, but a four-run outburst by Centenary in the top half of that inning proved too big an obstacle for the Golden Grizzlies to overcome.  The Gents went on to a 5-3 win to close out Oaklandís season as they failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row and third time in five seasons.  The rains eventually caught up with the two teams, forcing the cancellation of an inconsequential fourth game.  Oakland closed out its season at 20-34 overall and a sixth place finish in the conference at 10-13.

     John Sullivan and Ty Herriott represented Oakland on the all-conference teams.  Sullivan, who finished the season on a 19-game hitting streak, earned first-team All-Mid-Con honors at the catcher spot.  He hit a team-best .348 with 12 homeruns.  Herriott earned second-team accolades at first base.  He hit .340 with a school-record and league-leading 18 homeruns and 50 RBI.

     Despite missing the conference tournament Oakland was able to match last seasonís record for their second consecutive 20-win season and won 10 games in conference for the first time in four years.  Something head coach Mark Avery will challenge his team to improve upon next season, keeping them headed in the right direction and ensuring the future success of Oakland baseball.

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