Grizzlies prepare for postseason play

With five games remaining in the regular season the Oakland University baseball team was in seventh place in the Summit League. Yet, an 11-4 win over Southern Utah May 22 gave the Golden Grizzlies the fourth and final spot in the conference tournament. The Grizzlies won their final five games of the regular season, and they needed every one of them.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of the boys than I am right now,” said OU baseball coach John Musachio after the final game against Southern Utah. “They played their hearts out over the last three days. Mark Leichtman set the tone with his strong performance on the mound and our bullpen closed it out. We hit the ball really well and made some great plays on defense.”

Junior pitcher Mark Leichtman (3-5) started the game for OU and turned in one of his better performances of the season. He allowed just one run in six innings and struck out three. His efforts were complemented by timely hitting from sophomore Aaron Cieslak, who went 3-for-3 with two home runs and five RBI.

Oakland’s run to the postseason started much earlier than that final game against the Thunderbirds, however.

The Grizzlies played the final eight games of the regular season at home. Four games against IPFW and four more with Southern Utah — both teams were ahead of OU in the standings.

IPFW won the first three games to make Oakland’s climb even steeper. But the Grizzlies answered with the subsequent five-game win streak to clinch the postseason bid. Both IPFW and Southern Utah failed to qualify for the Summit League Tournament.

“My message to the guys after losing those first three games to IPFW was to go out play like they had nothing to lose instead of everything to lose,” Musachio said. “The biggest thing with this group, and it’s the same with any young team, is just learning how to win. Playing games with a lot on the line like we had to do, there’s a learning curve there.”

The Grizzlies took that lesson to heart and now have an opportunity to play the underdog role yet again when they face the regular season league champion South Dakota State in the first round of the Summit League Tournament Thursday, May 27.

“South Dakota State was the league champions for a reason,” Musachio said. “They can really swing the bats and they have an outstanding bullpen. My expectations are for us to go out there and play lose, have fun, and give ourselves a chance.”

Kyle Teague will start the game on the mound for the Grizzlies.