Golden Grizzlies Finish Inaugural Season with High Expectations

Oakland University’s softball team completed its first softball season with a 17-31-1 mark. The Golden Grizzlies finished 6-15 in the Mid-Continent Conference and ended up in sixth place.

The OU softball team traveled to Florida in February for its spring training trip. The Golden Grizzlies dropped their first four games to Stetson and Florida Tech, but came back with a seven-game winning streak with victories over Wartburg College, Thomas College, Briar Cliff College and Trinity College.

OU returned home March 4 and played a tough schedule facing in-state rivals Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Detroit and Michigan State.

Oakland traveled to Ypsilanti March 23 to face the Eagles from Eastern Michigan. The Golden Grizzlies dropped both games to EMU, 4-1 and 5-0.

Oakland continued on the road as they opened up the Mid-Con schedule at UMKC. OU battled the Kangaroos in the first game to 13 innings but fell short 2-1. Junior righthanded pitcher Crystal Ruddock went the distance for the Golden Grizzlies giving up seven hits, two runs, one earned run and struck out six. UMKC came back from a 4-3 deficit in the last inning of the second game to down Oakland 5-4. UMKC went on to sweep OU by winning both games the next day 4-1 and 8-1.

The Grizzlies opened up their home season against Grand Valley State March 27. OU split with GVSU defeating the Lakers 6-4 in game one and falling 6-2 in eight innings in the second game. Sophomore catcher Corinne Spanke hit the first ever home run on the OU Softball Field in OU’s 6-4 victory over the Grand Valley.

Oakland then welcomed preseason #23 Central Michigan to Oakland University. The Chippewas swept the doubleheader, 10-0 and 2-0 (in 10 innings). The two teams went to the international tie-breaker rule in the 10th inning which places a runner on second base with no outs. CMU took advantage by scoring two runs in the 10th and Oakland did not answer the Chippewas.

The Golden Grizzlies continued their tough schedule as Mid-Continent Conference foe Western Illinois came to Rochester. Western Illinois was the preseason favorite to win the conference. The Westerwinds’ rigthhanded pitcher Holly Killion, the conference player of the year, threw a perfect game striking out 12 OU batters in five innings. OU came back in the second game with a 1-0 victory behind a brillant pitching performance by freshman righthander Linnea Utecht. Utecht handed Western Illinois its only conference loss of the season pitching a two-hit complete game shutout.

Oakland remained at home for a two-game home swing against Bowling Green and Detroit-Mercy. The Golden Grizzlies ran into a hot swinging Bowling Green team that defeated OU 6-0. The Golden Grizzlies bounced back with a victory over UDM by a score of 3-0. Ruddock pitched five scoreless innings giving up two hits and freshman righthanded pitcher Julie Anderson pitched the final two innings recording her first save of the season.

The team then traveled to Youngstown, Ohio to play another Mid-Con opponent. The first two days were rained out and the two teams played the last day in snow. The Golden Grizzlies held Youngstown State to one run in the sixth inning with the bases loaded to down the Penguins 3-1. Utecht pitched 7.0 innings, giving up four hits, one run, no earned runs, walking four and striking out three.

The Grizzlies continued their road trio as they faced Western Michigan in Kalamazoo April 12. The Broncos defeated Oakland 6-0 in game one but OU returned the favor by winning 5-0 in the second game of the doubleheader. Anderson pitched a five-hitter while walking one and striking out two.

Oakland welcomed another Mid-Con opponent, IUPUI, to the OU Softball Field April 14-15. IUPUI downed the Grizzlies in game one by a score of 9-6 in 10 innings. OU then took the next three games from the Jaguars behind freshman shortstop Ericka Burns’ performance. Burns hit four triples in the series and went 9-for-16 (.563).

Valparaiso was next on the schedule for the Golden Grizzlies in Valparaiso, Indiana. The Crusaders took the wind out of Oakland’s sails in game one by winning 6-5 in 11 innings. Valparaiso went on to sweep OU taking all four games.

Oakland faced the Spartans from Michigan State in East Lansing April 26. The Golden Grizzlies fell short in game one by a score of 1-0 in eight innings and lost game two 5-1.

Illinois came calling next for the Grizzlies in Rochester April 29. Oakland lost its fifth game in a row by a score of 3-1 in eight innings. OU snapped its five game losing streak in game two against the Fighting Illini as OU defeated UI 4-3.

The Golden Grizzlies continued its games against Big Ten opponents as they traveled to Columbus, Ohio to face Ohio State. The Buckeyes jumped out in front by a score of 3-0 in the first inning of both games to snatch the chance of victory away from OU. OSU defeated Oakland 6-1 and 5-0.

Dayton and Oakland met for a doubleheader in Dayton, Ohio May 3. The two teams battled in the rain and the first game ended in a 4-4 tie after eight innings.

The Golden Grizzlies returned home to Rochester to play host to Southern Utah May 8-9. The series with SUU was the final regular season series in 2000. OU downed the second place Thunderbirds 3-2 in eight innings in game one but lost the remaining three games against Southern Utah 10-2, 1-0 and 7-4.

Burns led the Mid-Continent Conference in batting average (.391) and triples (10). The shortstop was named all-conference first team and finished second in the nation in triples per game with a 0.21 per game average.

Utecht and Anderson led the OU pitching with Utecht appearing in 31 games and Anderson making 27 appearances. Utecht finished the season with a 6-15 record and a 3.02 ERA. Anderson went 6-7 with a 2.80 ERA.

The Golden Grizzlies just missed out on the conference tournament and with a full season of experience under their belt, and the whole team returning, the Grizzlies should be right there next season. Oakland played a tough schedule and gained "game" experience with nine freshman on the team. OU will have high expectations next season and hope to be playing in May of 2001.

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