Softball team narrowly misses playoffs

The Oakland University softball season came to a close May 2, concluding with a three-game series sweep over South Dakota State. The 2009 campaign was filled with highs and lows. The season began in February by losing five straight games to non-conference opponents, but finished the year strong with a five-game winning streak.

“We played much better than we did last year,” head coach Glenn MacDonald said. “We played team softball.”

The Golden Grizzlies missed out on postseason play by mere percentage points in the Summit League standings. The fourth and final playoff spot went to Southern Utah, despite losing the season series with OU.

Before the March 29 loss to University of Missouri-Kansas City, the team spent several hours working to improve field conditions after adverse weather conditions threatened to cancel the game. The decision to use his team to help fix the field haunts MacDonald to this day.

“We worked on that field for four hours, all 26 girls, and I think I did a disservice to the team,” MacDonald said. “I used my team to get that field ready and then my team couldn’t perform. If we didn’t play that game we’re in the tournament.”

But he also recognized the unintended benefit of this task. “You talk about a team bond, and not one word of complaining,” MacDonald said. “They did what they had to do to play.”

Oakland played a month’s worth of games on the road before beginning their home schedule in late March. The team went 11-4 at home.

MacDonald credited senior leadership and team unity for an improved season that saw them finish 24-27 overall, with nine more victories than the previous season.

“Jessica Granger did a great job with [the younger players] and with all 26 girls,” MacDonald said.

Granger, a team captain and starting pitcher, was the staff’s ace, appearing in the vast majority of the games. She led the Golden Grizzlies this season with 19 wins, a 2.40 ERA, 195 strikeouts and seven shutouts.

During the season, she broke several school records. On April 15, she became Oakland’s all-time leader in career victories against Southern Utah University. Granger also holds the school record for strikeouts and complete game shutouts.

Senior second basemen Julie Owen was an offensive catalyst all season, leading the team in nearly every statistical category. She hit .408 with four home runs, 13 doubles, and 29 RBIs.

Both Granger and Owen were named to All-Conference teams at season’s end. Owen made the All-Summit League First Team, while Granger was named to the second team.

Senior co-captain Caitlin Lynch was also a major offensive contributor, starting all 51 games and batting .293 for the year. She finished second only to Owen in home runs (3) and RBIs (23).

Outfielder Stephanie Schall, another senior, batted .295 and finished third on the team in stolen bases and runs scored.

The team has a roster full of players that MacDonald said would be capable replacements next year.

The team will return over half of their starting lineup and their entire pitching staff with the exception of Granger, who MacDonald said would be serving as a mentor to the younger pitchers next year.

“She didn’t even realize [that she’d throw a no-hitter]. She didn’t have a clue until the game was over,” MacDonald said. “She just threw out that day. It was a nice way to get her first win.”

One notable season highlight came when freshman pitcher Brittany Doyle earned her first collegiate win by pitching a no-hitter against Rochester College April 19.

This victory also marked the first no-hitter by a Golden Grizzlies pitcher since 2004. Doyle had a 4.20 ERA and 26 strikeouts overall on the season.

This summer, Owen, along with Alison Tansel, Kylie Schalz and Kelsey Krych will be competing in Australia as a part of Team USA in an Olympic-style tournament called USA Athletes International.

“It’s really a great experience,” said MacDonald, “I had Julie [Owen] with me in Prague last year and we took the silver medal. We hope to take the gold in Australia.”