Softball swept by YSU in league opener

Katie LaDuke, Staff Reporter

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On Friday, March 24, Oakland softball traveled to Youngstown, Ohio to begin Horizon League play against Youngstown State University. The Golden Grizzlies dropped their three-game series to the Penguins, bringing their record to 7-13. Oakland softball has lost the last 10 of 11 games.

“It’s disappointing to start off and play the way we did,” said head coach Connie Miner in a postgame GrizzVision interview. “[Youngstown] made a couple great plays against us. We just couldn’t get anything going.”

The first day of play in Ohio consisted of a doubleheader. Erin Kownacki started on the mound and went four innings with two strikeouts. Haley Zemmer threw two innings while picking up two strikeouts, without giving up any walks or earned runs.

Offensively, the Golden Grizzlies gathered a total of six hits, but did not get on the board until the fifth inning, when Mikayela Marciniak brought in Jamie Squires on an RBI fielder’s choice. Lyndsay Hill led Oakland with two hits, with Abbey Walewski, Devon Smith, Brittney Miller and Squires recording one hit each. The Black and Gold fell to the Penguins 3-1.

“I work hard to do whatever I can to help my team,” Marciniak said.  “I approach my at-bats the same way every time, no matter if there are runners in scoring position, or the bases are empty.  I try my hardest to grind out all my at-bats and put the ball in play and make things happen.”

Kaley Waalkes started on the mound for the second game of the doubleheader and went 2.1 innings, recording one strikeout. Zemmer came out in relief for Waalkes in the third inning. Zemmer went 3.2 innings, allowing just one earned run and recorded four strikeouts.

YSU was the first to score, with three runs in the first inning. The Penguins went on to put up runs in all but one inning. As a team, Oakland recorded seven hits. Kelsie Swanson put up the Golden Grizzlies’ only run of the game in the fourth inning off of a fielder’s choice. YSU’s double-digit hits topped Oakland with a score of 8-1.

“The bright spot was I thought Zemmer came out and did a great job in both games,” Miner said. “We had a couple of players in the second game come out with a couple hits each, so we just have to bring back the way we hit with good pitching to put us in a position to win.”

Zemmer made her third straight appearance on the mound in the series finale on Saturday, March 25. She was the starting pitcher and went five innings, picking up two strikeouts. Kownacki made her second appearance of the series, coming in for relief in the sixth inning.

“Pitching in the three games against Youngstown State was fun and challenging,” Zemmer said.  “Coach and I really had to work together and trust each other to find a way to keep the hitters guessing and keep them off balance.”

YSU scored first again with a run in the first inning.  They added two runs in the third to gain a 3-0 lead. With an RBI single, Marciniak brought in Hill to score Oakland’s solo run in the sixth inning with two outs, bringing the score to 3-1. Hill, Smith and Squires also contributed to the Golden Grizzlies’ combined four hits. In the bottom of the sixth inning, YSU broke the gap open by adding three more runs. Oakland could not recover and dropped the final game 6-1.

“There was a horrendous call,” Miner said.  “It was a really bad call that brought two runs back that would’ve tied the game up. [The team] was doing everything we asked them to do, and it ripped our hearts out. I think it affected us a little after the call. It was a really disappointing weekend for the team. They have been playing really solid. It’s not what we wanted out of the weekend, but we have to learn from it and respond.”

The Golden Grizzlies return home to take on Northern Kentucky University at 3 p.m. ET on Friday, March 31 for Oakland’s home opener.