Grizzlies baseball primed to attack



Starting out its season with a 4-10 record, including three losses against No. 4 Oklahoma, the Oakland University baseball team’s morale could have taken a serious hit.

Regardless of what the win-loss column looks like, however, senior infielder D.J. Jarrad is sure the Golden Grizzlies will be ready to compete when it comes time to play Summit League conference games.

“There are no real moral victories, but we can take away that we’re stacking up against some of the top teams in the nation. We went down to Oklahoma and were with them every single game,” Jarrad said. “We’ve played the top teams in every conference and been right there, and if one call goes our way, we’re winning those games.”

With games against teams like Butler, Wright State, Michigan and Illinois State, OU has played teams from seven different conferences, seeing different styles of play in each series.

Six of their losses have been by three runs or less, something that head coach John Musachio thinks the team can learn from later on.

“Every time you play in tight games, you get more comfortable in those situations and you understand how important the little things are in all the innings, not just the last,” Musachio said. “Losing those close games really stings, but guys remember all those details. I think it’s going to really prepare us to play in tight games and under pressure. If you can win the one-run games, you’re going to have a heck of a season.”

Coming into the season, Oakland was expected to be a good offensive team, as they were returning several starters from last season’s squad. The team’s pitching, however, was an area of uncertainty.

After playing 14 games, however, senior infielder Tommy Jablonski said he thinks otherwise.

“I think we might be even stronger, actually,” Jablonski said. “We have the same offensive group coming back, but some really good new pitchers, a few more power arms. Our pitching has already proven to be better, and they’ve kept us in games this year.”

The team’s pitching staff, led by senior Aaron Wick (2-3) and junior Greg Welke (1-3) has provided a reason to be optimistic. The two have combined for 42 strikeouts in 53.2 innings.

While they have returned so many players, the team’s offensive approach has changed somewhat.

Jablonski considers the Grizzlies a “small-ball” team: getting base hits, bunting to move over runners, and becoming more effective in getting runners home from third base with less than two outs.

“We faced some really tough pitching early on, but if guys stick to the process like I know they will, this team is going to hit at or above .300,” Musachio said. “The one thing about this year’s team is our aggressiveness on the bases. We’re trying to instill an attack mentality that is really going to help us down the stretch.”

That attack mentality has been evident early on this season, as the Grizzlies are averaging nearly three stolen bases per game.

One player that has pleased the coaching staff in the first two months of the season is sophomore Kyle Bobolts.

In 14 spot appearances his freshman year, Bobolts had three hits in 19 at-bats. After five games this year, he already has eight hits in 15 at-bats.

“Kyle is playing extremely well. He’s a tough, fearless kid and we can play him all over the baseball field. We haven’t seen him a whole lot on the mound, but he’s (also) going to be one of our best relief pitchers this year,” Musachio said. “He’s come along quicker than we anticipated and he’s going to be a big piece of this team.”

With underclassmen comprising almost half of the team’s roster, the challenge of calming rookie nerves rests with the seniors — a task they’ve gladly taken up.

“It’s all about approach, and if you have the right approach and make a mistake, that’s okay because down the road we’re going to have success,” outfielder Dan Gliot said. “If you don’t have a good approach, that’s where we’d need to change something, but most of our guys have the right approach and are executing.”

Knowing that his team’s chance at a second consecutive postseason berth depends on what happens in Summit League play, Musachio isn’t putting much stock into his team’s win total just yet.

“I’m pleased with the direction that the team is going and I’m pleased with the way we’ve played the game of baseball,” Musachio said. “Obviously you want more (wins) and that hasn’t happened, but we have to focus on the process and the (wins) will be there in the end.”

The Grizzlies are scheduled to have their first home game of the season on Friday, April 1 against Rochester College. The game will be at 3 p.m. at the OU baseball field.