A New Season with New Players
Goals and Expectations
Oakland University’s softball team has a new look for the 2004 season. With just five players returning from last year’s squad, the team has a new mix of players that will look to capture the Golden Grizzlies’ third consecutive Mid-Con Championship title.
Although the team is young and consists of eleven newcomers, head coach Mike Tomlinson is positive that his team can stay competitive in the Mid-Con and make the conference tournament.
“One of our goals for this season will be to finish in the top four in our conference” commented Tomlinson. “With our team being younger this year, we’re going to have to learn to win pretty quickly. But in doing so, I think we can compete in the conference and have a chance to make it to the tournament’s championship game.”
One of the challenges for the returning players will be to guide the newcomers on the field and provide the leadership necessary to win games. The lone senior on the team, Erica Judge (Fort Collins, Colo.), will be looked upon to lead the players both on and off the field. As a three year starter as shortstop, Judge will be the field general for the Golden Grizzlies and will seek to end her career on a winning note.
“Being young, we don’t have experience at this level” stated Tomlinson. “So we’re hoping that some of our older players, like Erica Judge, can teach the younger players the ropes.”
Lefty Nicole Marzano was named 2003 Mid-Con Pitcher of the Year.
On the Mound
Just two pitchers will look to lead Oakland in its quest for a third Mid-Con Championship title crown – junior Nicole Marzano (McHenry, Ill.) and freshman Korey Schluckbier (Reese, Mich.).
As last year’s Mid-Con Pitcher of the Year, left-handed Marzano is expected to do very well both inside and outside of the conference.
“She’ll be looked upon to lead us from the circle” said Tomlinson of Marzano.
Schluckbier will be the Golden Grizzlies’ second pitcher who is expected to throw some good games. The coaching staff is expecting that between both Marzano and Schluckbier, the team will get some big opportunities and learn a lot on the mound.
Behind the Plate
Freshman Jessica Scholey (Mississauga, Ont.) is expected to be the Golden Grizzlies number one starter behind the plate. Scholey, a quick-handed catcher will have an important role to play and learn throughout the season.
“Scholey will need to learn how to control the tempo of the game” remarked Tomlinson. “For the first part of the year this will place a lot of emphasis and work on our pitchers because they will have to teach Scholey how to control the tempo – giving Marzano and Schluckbier more work than they should have. However, I’m confident that by the end of the season, Scholey will have learned how to run the game.”
Another freshman, Danielle Shamus (Commerce, Mich.) should also expect to see some time in the number two position for the Golden Grizzlies.
Senior Erica Judge was named All-Mid-Con in 2003.
Except for the shortstop position, in which Judge occupies, every position in the infield will be taken by a newcomer. Although the field will be taken over by a younger generation than in the past, the players are athletic and will fill these positions with time.
“We’re young so we’re not as crisp as we need to be so it’ll take us a few games to get there” said Tomlinson. “However, by the time our conference schedule comes around we should be where we need to be and will have more experience under our belt.”
Starting at first base will be Stephanie Brillhart (Riverview, Mich.) and at second will be Chicago native Natalie Webb. Webb, will be expected to both offensively and defensively provide for OU.
Seeing time at third will be Dana Blugerman (Holly, Mich.) who is also looked upon to provide at the plate. Tomlinson believes all four infielders will do very well defensively for the team.
Other players looking to see some time in the dirt are Katie Jones (Crystal Lake, Ill.), Abbey Hernandez (Davison, Mich.), Teri Burt (Wixom, Mich.), and utility player Cheron Guyton (Detroit, Mich.).
Oakland captured its second consecutive Mid-Con championship title in 2003.
Returning in the outfield is sophomore Camie Knorr (Appleton, Wis.) and junior Christina Schulte (Rochester, Mich.). Knorr will be starting in the centerfield while Schulte will provide experience in the right side of the field.
Junior college transfer Toni Salo (Ortonville, Mich./Oakland CC) and freshman Maria Benza (Loveland, Ohio) will also be expected to share time in the field either on the left or right sides.
This year’s team begins the 2004 schedule traveling south to Tennessee and Georgia. The team is using the opening half of the schedule as practice in order to prepare for the conference schedule that begins in March.
“The mentality is that with a younger program, we decided not to have as difficult a schedule as in the past” commented Tomlinson. “We want to remain competitive and have these games as learning opportunities. In years past our schedule has been very difficult and this year we decided that we’re going to teach more during game time. We will use many of these games as a teaching ground for us.”
This year’s Mid-Con schedule has a new twist – Centenary College. Now instead of six teams in the conference, there are seven – and with only four teams traveling to the Mid-Con tournament – tighter competition for those four spots will arise. Expecting to finish first in the conference in the pre-season poll is Southern Utah followed by Western Illinois. Oakland was selected to finish third and coach Tomlinson believes his team will be able to achieve that finish.
“Since one of our goals is to finish in the top four of our conference, we will be very happy to do that and will then have a chance to win the tournament title.”