Oakland softball falls in Horizon League Finals

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Photo courtesy of @OaklandSoftball on Twitter.

Sydney Campbell winding up to pitch against Youngstown State in the Horizon League Softball Semifinals.

Oakland University softball lost in the Horizon League Finals to the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames last weekend. The Golden Grizzlies were the two-seed in the tournament.

They faced the same UIC squad in the first round, where they lost 5-1. Head Coach Lauren Karn said the team “let the game get away from them.”

“We made some mistakes, didn’t really play like ourselves,” Karn said. “I think the atmosphere of the game got to some of us, not all of us. For some players who maybe hadn’t been there before, it was a pretty big moment.”

The Grizzlies faced elimination in their next game against Robert Morris. They were able to escape with a 5-4 victory, advancing to the semifinals against No.1 seed Youngstown State, who had swept them in four games in the regular season. 

Sydney Campbell would go on to pitch a four-hit shutout as the Grizzlies ran past the Penguins 3-0 to advance to the Horizon League Finals. Karn said the team was “hungry to win” after their first-round loss to UIC.

“The next few games, we came out and played totally like ourselves,” Karn said. “We were excited to actually get the opportunity to play Youngstown State again, knowing they beat us four times in the regular season. [The] girls were really pumped up for that.”

In the first game of the Horizon League Finals, the Golden Grizzlies ran out of gas. Down 4-0 in the fifth inning, Lauren Griffith delivered a two-run single. In the seventh, Cammie Brummitt homered to make it a one run game — but it wasn’t enough.

Because this was a double-elimination tournament, and the Golden Grizzlies already lost to UIC in the first round, the Flames clinched the Horizon League title with a 4-3 victory. 

Karn said errors and lack of clutch hitting led to the team’s downfall. 

“Those first two innings when we had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs, not being able to push a run across there, I think that’s where the biggest shift was for us,” Karn said. “Not that we can’t produce offensively as the game goes on, but to be able to score first [and] put pressure on them first would have helped us a little bit.”

Karn mentioned the team did a pretty good job defensively.

“Defensively, [we had] one throw here or there, an errant throw, but other than that I thought we did a pretty good job,” she said. “Most of our lineup did what they normally do and defensively we played pretty well — except for those few key errors. We’re right there, we just need more experience in that arena to win. I’m hopeful for next year for sure.”

Of course, this season wasn’t without its accomplishments. The Golden Grizzlies set school records for both conference wins [23] and home wins [18]. Karn was proud of the team for setting those records. 

“It’s all because of the girls,” Karn said. “They’re out there playing the game — I’m proud of them. It’s their records that they’re breaking, the records they’re holding now, not really mine. So I’m just proud of them, they deserve that. They’ve worked hard for that. They’re hungry to get to the championship every year and know what they have to do. [Part] of that is winning almost every series we play, and they took care of business.”

Karn said the team is going to continue to strive to win championships in the future. 

“It’s on [the team’s] mind quite a bit,” Karn said. “We talk about it quite a bit. They have that goal and then once we hit that goal we want to maintain that.”