Oakland softball looking for another historical season


Noora Neiroukh

Oakland University softball huddling up. The Golden Grizzlies will start their season on Friday, Feb. 25.

Last season ended in gut-wrenching fashion for the Oakland University softball team.

Down 4-2 going into the seventh inning of the Horizon League championship game, the Grizzlies had just three outs to try and extend what had already been a remarkable season.

Oakland could only muster one run, and one of the best seasons in program history came to a screeching halt.

Although the season didn’t end the way they wanted, the Grizzlies still had plenty to be proud of. The team broke many school records — including conference wins [23], batting average [.299] and slugging percentage [.450].

Despite the historically great season, Head Coach Lauren Karn has higher goals for her team this season than to break a few records.

“We did have quite a few records broken last year,” Karn said. “But overall our main goal is to win the championship, and we came up short.”

Karn says this year’s team, now with a little more experience, is built to do what last year’s team couldn’t. 

“We graduated seven last year, but only two of them were starters,” Karn said. “So we’re bringing the majority of our starters back, and especially in important positions — most of them being the girls who performed at a very high level. The scary part of our lineup [is that] they’re all here.”

One player the Grizzlies are especially excited to have back is redshirt senior Madison Jones. Jones started all 42 games at third base last season, and was named to her second All-Horizon League First Team.

Jones led the team in batting average last season with an astounding .411 mark, and also added 13 doubles, six triples and seven home runs. She holds the school record for career home runs with 22.

Before the Grizzlies begin their quest for a Horizon League championship, they will travel to Orlando, Florida to compete in The Knights Classic.

The Grizzlies are scheduled to battle some of the nation’s best, including No. 22 James Madison, No. 4 Florida, No. 24 UCF and No. 5 Florida State.

“Typically we try to schedule at least one really tough weekend,” Karn said. “What we want to do is prepare ourselves not only to win the Horizon League, but to get to regionals and compete and win at regionals.”

“Tough” may not be a strong enough word to describe this stretch. The Grizzlies will take on the aforementioned four ranked teams in a span of just six days, with games against DePaul and Ole Miss mixed in as well.

After the gauntlet to kick off the season, Oakland will travel to Evansville, Indiana to compete in the University of Evansville Softball Invitational. The Grizzlies are slated to play Bowling Green, Evansville, Morehead State and Creighton in this invitational, which will take place in the first week of March.

After the invitational, the Grizzlies will embark upon their ultimate goal: winning the Horizon League championship.

“We have a very specific goal now,” Karn said. “When it comes to winning the championship, that’s not the only thing that’s going to define our success, but it is a big part of what we’re working for every single day.”

Karn also notices a difference between last year’s team and this year’s team, which she thinks will ultimately pay dividends in the long run saying, “our mentality as individuals is more cohesive than it’s ever been.”

Karn explained how some players in the past haven’t been as committed to winning a championship as she would have liked, but this year’s team, she says, is all in.

“This year, from one to 19, we’re talking about it, and we’re trying to do it every single day as we’re working,” Karn said.

The goal is clear this season: win the Horizon League championship.

Oakland will leave for Florida on Wednesday, staying there for about a week before making a second stop in Indiana to complete the first round of non-conference play.