Golden Grizzlies Set to Defend Conference Crown
Last year the Golden Grizzlies came from the middle of pack to surprise the Mid-Continent Conference as OU recorded its first conference crown in its second season of play. OU headed to the conference tournament as the number one seed and defeated UMKC 4-2 in the tourneys first round. OU was later defeated by Western Illinois and Southern Utah to end the Grizzlies glorious season with a 25-29 record. This year things are different, the Grizzlies are no longer a surprise to the rest of the Mid-Con and with that said OU begins its title defense campaign.
With the success of last year the Grizzlies have been picked to repeat as the Mid-Continent Conference regular-season title according to the conference coaches. This marks the first year that OU was tabbed to win the conference in the programs short history.
"Our goal is to again win the conference regular season title and to win the conference tournament," said head coach Steve Ogg. "Now that everyone will be gunning for us we need to be more focused. There will be a little more stress and pressure but I think that will be good for us."
To help the Golden Grizzlies get focused for conference play they will be a tough non-conference schedule as OU will play numerous nationally acclaimed programs. OU will face teams like Alabama-Birmingham, Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State, Central Michigan, Michigan State, DePaul and San Diego State to prepare the Grizzlies for the Mid-Con. After witnessing the mens and womens basketball programs achieve success from scheduling a tough non-conference schedule coach Ogg decided to model basketballs success.
"Weve tried to model ourselves after the mens and womens basketball teams," said Ogg. "Weve noticed that while talking to coach Kampe and coach Francis that they like to play tough competition and quite frankly when you play Big Ten teams and nationally ranked teams the odds of you going in there and knocking them off is not good, but when you play tougher competition you get tougher."
Oakland enters the 2002 season the same as it did when the program began two years ago, as a young team. OU has no seniors this year as the Grizzlies graduated their only senior in the history of the program, third baseman Keri Sedgley. Replacing Sedgley will be two-time first-team Mid-Con selection, Ericka Burns. The Clinton, Ontario, Canada native played most of the season last year in left field but this year will move back to the infield. In addition to having no seniors the Golden Grizzlies added six newcomers to an already young team.
"This group of freshmen brings a variety of skills that can push last years team to the next level." said Ogg. "This groups specialty is speed, defense and consistent hitting so it will be exciting to see what they can do."
Leading the newcomers this year is OUs first left handed pitcher, Nicole Marzano.
"Nicole set many records at her high school including the unbelievable feat of striking out 33 batters in one game, so we are excited to see what Nicole can do at the Division I level." said Ogg.
With the Grizzlies being picked first this year to win the conference coach Ogg his and squad know the pressure is on and the focus will be on Rochester. Western Illinois and Southern Utah were picked second and third respectively.
"The games against Southern Utah and Western Illinois will be big games for us in repeating as conference champs," said Ogg. "We play both teams at home and with having no seniors on the team the home field advantage will be important."
Another key to the Grizzlies repeating as conference champions will be the series against UMKC in Kansas City, Missouri as the Mid-Con tourney is going to be played at the Kangaroos Adiar Park.
"A very important game other than against Western Illinois and Southern Utah games will be the series at UMKC," said Ogg. "The series against UMKC may be the key of the entire season because they will host the tournament and for us to go there and get a feel for the field before the tourney will be huge."
Utecht was the Grizzlies winningest pitcher last year as she tallied a 9-3 record as she struck out 66 players and recorded a 3.01 ERA. The Oshkosh, Wisconsin native pitched in 90.2 innings, one complete game and one shutout.
Anderson started 22 games last season for OU and had a 2.79 ERA. She recorded a 12-11 record as she appeared in 37 games and was first on the team with 145.1 innings pitched and she also led the team with 91 strikeouts.
Voss was named the Mid-Continent Conference Newcomer of the Year last year as she was a force on the mound and at the plate. Voss had a 2.67 ERA as she pitched 110 innings and recorded 57 strikeouts in 39 appearances.
Newcomer Marzano is the first lefty in the history of the program and will be a big factor in the Grizzlies rotation. The McHenry, Illinois native collected a 21-8 record her senior year as she pitched 211 innings with 347 strikeouts for McHenry High School.
Also seeing time at the mound this season will be junior Tiffany Evans. Last year Evans made 14 appearances and recorded one saves for OU while recording 17 strikeouts.
Nicole Schulte will be the backup catcher for the Grizzlies this season. Last year she had 115 putouts and 53 assists defensively.
Also competing for first base is freshman Erinn Voytal. During her senior year at Southfield Christian the Berkley native recorded 32 hits and 24 runs for a .368 batting average and on the mound she was 19-4 and had an ERA of 0.86
Seffens is the veteran in the outfield as this is her third year for OU. Seffens batted .259 as she collected 35 hits as she tallied 11 RBI and had a .319 slugging percentage.
Sayger saw limited time in the outfield last year as she had 14 putouts and three assists defensively. At the plate Sayger recorded a .167 batting average as she totaled six hits, eight runs and two RBI.
Schulte also so time in the outfield last year for the Grizzlies as she was fifth on the team with .269 batting average. The Rochester native started nine games for OU as she tallied seven hits, four runs and two RBI.
Hair is one of three freshmen who will compete for time in the outfield in 2002. Hair was named All-League and All-District all four years and was All-State and All-Region her senior year at Anchor Bay High School. She also set school record her junior year as she recorded 44 steals.
McCoy started in the outfield in 11 games under coach Ogg and will look to increase her playing time. McCoy batted .195 as she had five runs, eight hits and one RBI, defensively McCoy recorded 12 putouts and two assists in 2001.
Lyndia Petrie is the teams only walk-on and will compete for an outfield position for the Grizzlies. The Sunfield native was named All-League and All-District her senior year at Lakewood High School as she led the squad to a 22-14 record as she batted a .333 average.
Rounding out the freshman squad competing for time in the outfield is Melissa Wilson. The Holly native was named All-League, All-District and All-region her junior and senior seasons at Lake Orion High School and was elected to the All-State second team her senior year. Wilson helped the team to a 22-11 record her senior year as she batted .457 and recorded 23 stolen bases.
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