Oakland Softball’s first games under new head coach


Sam Boggs

New head coach Lauren Cognigni focuses on making aggressive plays, and finding out where everyone works best this season.

Braving the recent unusual heat of fall, Oakland University softball played its first games under new head coach Lauren Cognigni on Saturday, Sept. 23. The Golden Grizzlies split the doubleheader with the University of Michigan-Dearborn, falling in the first game 2-3, but coming on top 7-1 in the latter game. Oakland will play a total of eight games in the upcoming weeks.

“The competition is good for the kids,” Cognigni said. “We’re working out some kinks and figuring out who meshes well where and with who.”  

The majority of the first game was a learning experience to see what was worked on in practice and a way to shake off nerves since it was the first collegiate game for some of the players. Of the team’s 25 athletes, nine are freshmen.

“We have been focusing on being aggressive, making mistakes and making mistakes aggressively,” Cognigni said. “In the first game, I’m not sure we did that as well as we could have. In the second game, we were aggressive, we made some mistakes, but then we also came out on top on some of our aggressiveness. That is part of the reason we were able to come out on top in [the second] game because we weren’t afraid to make a mistake.”

The biggest adjustment came from the offense in the second game with batters swinging the bat more aggressively. In game one, Cognigni felt that some at bats were passive and not as aggressive as they should be. In the second game, batters did not just hit for contact. Both power hitters and contact hitters got the ball out of the infield.

“I want them to be in an attack mentality whether we’re on the mound, at the plate, on defense, every single time the ball is put into play,” Cognigni said.  

Another main focus of the day was pitching. Some marks were missed that allowed U of M-Dearborn to capitalize on.

“I think [the pitchers] have a little bit of work to do,” senior pitcher Haley Zemmer said. “I think it’s just nerves because a lot of [the pitchers] are really new. It was our first fall game, and we learned a lot and have a lot to work on. [Coach’s] big thing is attacking the strike zone, so trying to adjust to each umpire.”

Beside winning the Horizon League this spring, Cognigni wants to stress the importance of being competitive and putting in the highest amount of effort into every game, no matter the opponent. This means athletes may not always play their usual position. Infielders might be used in the outfield, an outfielder might be needed behind the plate and a multi-position pitcher might be used as a utility player.

“Right now I feel really good about putting people in different positions,” Cognigni said. “So understanding and being able to put them all in different spots so far has been really great.”

In order to have the position switches be effective, communicating and a positive mentality is key. A new coach does not always know where everyone plays.

“Having flexibility and coming on and off the field cheering on your team has been really helpful,” Zemmer said. “I think it is huge having personal relationships with your teammates. I think this is a great team. They all seem like they have a lot of heart, so I think we can go really far this year.”

In addition to all the work leading up to the season and the Horizon League Tournament, Cognigni wants the team to have fun.

“I am most excited to just go out and play with these guys and give it our all. We have a fun group, I don’t know if they have always tapped into that fun. I am trying to get them to dance and laugh a little bit more” Cognigni said.  

The next fall double header will be home against Madonna University on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.