Oakland University begins the new millennium with a new varsity program in Division I athletics. OU has added softball and the Golden Grizzlies begin competition 2000.
The addition of softball brings OUs grand total to 14 varsity sports and the 2000 season marks OUs first as a Division I program. The Golden Grizzlies are a member of the Mid-Continent conference, a league that is comprised of seven teams. The seven teams will battle for four spots in the Mid-Con tourney and a chance to win the conference tournament and receive an automatic bid to regionals.
The Golden Grizzlies replace the reigning Mid-Continent Conference champion DePaul. The Blue Demons went 22-0 in the Mid-Con last season and lost to UCLA in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
Oakland has big shoes to fill in replacing the national powerhouse and looks to make an immediate impact in the league.
"DePaul made it to the semifinals last season as the Mid-Con champion and with them leaving, the conference is up in the air," head coach Steve Ogg said "I expect us to be competitive against all the teams we face in the 2000 season. We have devised a schedule that pins us against a lot of tough teams such as Notre Dame, Central Michigan and Michigan State which all ranked in the top 10 in the Mideast region last year."
The competitive non-conference schedule should provide experience for the younger players on the Golden Grizzly squad. Oaklands roster is devised of 10 freshmen, two sophomores and five juniors.
"We have a lot of young players, so I expect us to make a lot of mental mistakes early in the season," Ogg said "these girls have not played together before so we are not very fluid right now."
Oakland will look to the seven transfers to provide leadership for this years squad. Sophomores Mary Kate McGowan (St. Andrews Presbyterian College) and Corinne Spanke (Central Michigan) and juniors Crystal Ruddock (Victor Valley CC, California), Keri Sedgley (Solano JC, California), Jennifer Morgan (Oakland Community College), Sarah Watters (Oakland CC) and Danielle TerHaar (Oakland CC) will fill leadership roles.
"We have some junior college transfers and two four-year college transfers that will provide the experience our team needs to start the season."
The Golden Grizzlies have selected two of the three captains for the inaugural season...Keri Sedgley and Ericka Burns. Burns is a freshman who participated on Canadas junior Olympic team in 1999 and Sedgley, a transfer from Solano JC in California, brings maturity and a power hitting swing to the Golden Grizzlies.
Oakland will not be entering the new millennium completely blindfolded as the Golden Grizzlies played in two tournaments in the fall of 1999. OU traveled to Mount Pleasant to participate in CMUs tourney (10/3) and to Ann Arbor to play in Michigans fall classic (10/9-10) .
Oakland defeated Northwood University 6-4 in the first game of the CMU tourney and was scheduled to play the Chippewas in the championship game when mother nature delayed the match-up between the two teams.
At the Michigan tournament, Oakland opened up play with a victory over Eastern Michigan 1-0. The Golden Grizzlies then faced the Rockets from Toledo and escaped with another one run victory 3-2. OU then suffered its first loss of the fall at the hands of the host Mcihigan 8-0.
The Golden Grizzlies finished the fall tournaments 3-1 and with an attitude that they can compete at any level of competition.
"The kids played hard but timid" said Ogg. "We were a little intimidated against Michigan and instead of playing up to our abilities, we were standing in awe of Michigan."
Oakland is looking forward to getting its feet wet at the Division I level. The Golden Grizzlies do not know what determines a successful inaugural season and what reasonable goals should be set, but Coach Ogg puts things in perspective for the 2000 season.
"Our goal is to compete against every team we face this season. We want to build a foundation, evaluate it, and then look at the areas we need to improve on. After some conference games we will get an idea of what we are up against and where we need to be at the end of the season. If we finish in the top four in the conference and have a shot at qualifying for the nationals by winning the conference tournament, I would call that a successful season."
Crystal Ruddock (Jr., RHP, Apple Valley, CA), Julie Anderson (Fr., RHP, Lane Portland), Linnea Utecht (Fr., RHP, Oshkosh, WI) and Tiffany Evans (Fr., RHP, Larue, OH) will handle the bulk of pitching in the 2000 season.
Ruddock pitched in 11 of the 36 innings in the 1999 fall tournaments. She compiled a 0.64 ERA in the fall with five strikeouts, five walks and a 2-0 record.
Anderson handled most of the closing duties for the Golden Grizzlies. She had three appearances in the fall and recorded two saves. She pitched in 7.33 innings, struck out four, walked two and gave up seven hits.
Utecht should be the go to pitcher for the Golden Grizzlies in 2000. She went 17-1 in her senior season at Oshkosh West High School with 179 strikeouts in 117 innings pitched and posted a 0.36 ERA. Utecht pitched in 11.66 innings this fall and struck out seven, walked five, had a record of 1-1 and an ERA of 4.18.
Evans pitched sparingly in the fall throwing six innings for the Golden Grizzlies. She gave up four earned runs, had one strikeout, six walks and recorded a 3.5 ERA.
"We have a very young pitching staff," said Ogg. "They are young, but talented. They throw hard and have a good mix of pitches in their arsenal."
Corinne Spanke (So., Ortonville) will be the starting catcher for Oakland in the 2000 season. Spanke comes to Oakland from Central Michigan where she played a season for the Chippewas under head coach Margo Jonker. She batted .395 her senior season at Brandon High School and recorded 47 RBI. Megan Piar (Fr., Lancaster, OH) will also see time behind the dish this year. Piar led Bloom Carroll High School in Lancaster, Ohio to a district championship and a sweet 16 finish.
Tiffany Evans, Jennifer Granger (Fr., Troy) and Utecht will share duties at first base when they are not pitching for the Golden Grizzlies. Granger, a transfer from Michigan, led Troy High School to the quarterfinals in 1999. Utecht hit .396 her senior year at Oshkosh West High School in Oshkosh, Wisconsin to lead the Indians to a 17-1 record.
Ruddock, Jennifer Morgan (Jr., Rochester), Laura Plunkitt (Fr., Imlay City) and Bozenna Johnson (Fr., Louisville, OH) will all battle it out in spring training for the starting job at second base. Ruddock is a junior college transfer from Victor Valley Community College in Apple Valley, California. Morgan is a junior college transfer from Oakland Community College who hit .362 and knocked in 19 runners in 1997. Plunkitt attended Imlay City High School in 1999 and led the Spartans to a 26-7 record.
Keri Sedgley (Jr., Napa, CA) is a junior college transfer from Solano JC in California, and is one of the captains for OU. Sedgley hit .440 under head coach Jennae Lambon on her way to lead the team in singles, doubles and homers.
Ericka Burns (Fr., Clinton, Ontario) is the other captain for Oakland and will head up the position at short stop. Burns played on the Canadian junior Olympic Team in the summer of 1999. Danielle TerHaar (Jr., Macomb Twp) will see some time at short stop along with in the outfield.
TerHaar, Sarah Watters (Jr., Marine City), Mary Kate McGowan (So., Fredericksburg), Lauren Seffens (Fr., Ortonville) and Katie Snyder (Fr., Troy) will vy for the three spots open in the outfield. TerHaar played for Macomb CC and Oakland CC before coming to Oakland. Watters took the same route as TerHaar before Oakland and helped Macomb CC place seventh in the nation in the NJCAA Division III.
McGowan, a transfer from St. Andrews Presbyterian College, hit .296 and swiped 20 bases for the Knights. Seffens attended Brandon High School in 1999 where she hit .333 and led the Blackhawks to the state playoffs. Snyder will bring her .327 Troy High School batting average to the playing field in 2000.
"We have a lot of speed in the outfield and some really good arms" Ogg said. "This will be our deepest part of the bench and it will be fun to watch all these outfielders compete."