Tough Start Slows Down Golden Grizzlies

After a tough season in 2004 that saw Oakland set a school record for losses, the coaching staff completely revamped the roster for 2005, bringing in a total of 11 new players in hopes of bringing the program back into the upper ranks of the Mid-Continent Conference. Unfortunately for the Golden Grizzlies it took awhile for the team to find the right combination of players, and, combined with a tough early-season schedule, Oakland would wind up with another tough season. In the end the Golden Grizzlies finished with a 12-41 overall record and a 6-15 mark in Mid-Con play.

Camie Knorr earned All-Mid-Con honors for the first time in 2005.

Starting out the season at a tournament hosted by the University of Georgia, the Golden Grizzlies quickly discovered that offense was going to be a problem. OU was blanked 4-0 in the opener by Radford and went on to lose all five of its games at the tournament, scoring just six runs. Things took another turn for the worse when Maria Benza, expected to be a big bat in the lineup, went down with a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game in Athens.

Oakland continued to struggle on its spring trip, dropping three more games before Jessica Brubaker (Waterford, Mich.) and Nicole Marzano (McHenry, Ill.) combined to get the Golden Grizzlies back on the right track by tossing a 2-0 shutout at George State. Brubaker herself knocked in the winning run with a single in the second inning.

In addition to hitting woes, the Golden Grizzlies also struggled early with their fielding, having only three games in the first half of the campaign in which they did not make a miscue, giving up a total of 65 unearned runs over the course of the season. As a result Oakland found itself in a tailspin to start the season, getting just four wins before the start of conference play.

Stephanie Zellner led Oakland in hitting and RBI.

Oakland started out the conference season on a cold and damp weekend at IUPUI where the Golden Grizzlies could only come up with five runs in the four games. The Jaguars won a close 2-0 game in the opener and then used the momentum of a dramatic last inning win in game two to go on to sweep the series and put OU in a hole in the Mid-Con standings.

Hosting Detroit after that trip, Oakland finally got the combination of hitting, pitching and fielding in the second game of a doubleheader against the Titans to pick up an 8-0 win, the most runs for OU to that point of the season. Marzano threw a five-inning one hitter and junior Stephanie Zellner (Gervais, Ore.) provided the offense with four RBI, including a three-run homer.

A trip out West for a series against Southern Utah saw Oakland finally pick up its offense, banging out a total of 36 hits and scoring 13 runs. The bad news was that the Golden Grizzly pitching could not hold back the Thunderbird bats, as they too had success over the weekend. Oakland held leads in the first three games of the series, but each time Southern came back and when the dust cleared it was the Thunderbirds who had the four-game sweep.

Oakland did not taste victory again until junior Laura Chomokos (Gilbert, Ariz.) led OU to a 4-1 win at Toledo where she held the Rockets to just four hits over seven innings to pick up the win. Chomokos did it again in Oakland’s next game, shutting down Valparaiso on just two hits while also doubling and scoring a run as the Golden Grizzlies won back-to-back games for the first time and picked up its first conference win in a 2-0 decision over the Crusaders. Her effort was recognized by the Mid-Con when she was named the league’s Pitcher of the Week, OU’s first Mid-Con player of the week award of the season.

A Mid-Con Picher of the Week, Laura Chomokos was one of three pitchers in the league to record 100+ strikeouts..

If there was a bright side to the Oakland season, the team saved its best for last. Closing the campaign with a pair of Mid-Con series at home, the Golden Grizzlies put everything together over the final eight games, winning five of them, including taking three of four from eventual Mid-Con champion Centenary.

After dropping the first game against the Ladies, Oakland bounced back to take the final three contests, rapping out 29 hits and scoring 17 runs. Marzano threw back-to-back complete game wins and Camie Knorr (Appleton, Wis.) led the offense, going a combined 7-for-13 in the series, driving in three and scoring four times.

Oakland closed out the season with a split against UMKC, with Chomokos continuing her strong end of the year showing by picking up both wins against the Kangaroos on the mound. Zellner led the offensive attack, driving in three runs while hitting .417 in the series.

Despite the lack of success in terms of wins and losses, a number of OU players had solid seasons. Knorr was the lone Golden Grizzly representative on the All-Mid-Con squad, getting named to the second team by the league’s coaches. She was second on the team with her .282 batting average and led the squad with three home runs. Zellner came on strong at the end of the season and led the team with her .294 average and 18 RBI. Senior Christina Schulte (Rochester, Mich.) finished among the Mid-Con leaders with four triples, the fourth most in a season by a Golden Grizzly hitter in the history of the program.

Among the pitching staff, Chomokos finished the year ranking among the league leaders with strikeouts and innings pitched while also leading the team at the plate with eight doubles. Marzano closed out her career in fine style, striking out a pair of Kangaroos to increase her career total to 425, an Oakland record.

While the early parts of the season were trying for the Golden Grizzlies, the close to the season showed Oakland fans that this team, had indeed, improved itself from the previous season. With the majority of the squad coming back for 2006, the experience and cohesiveness that the team gained in 2005 should carry Oakland higher in the Mid-Con standings in the future.

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