Robert Morris set to tango with Oakland in Horizon League Championship

The+team+huddles+before+their+game+against+IUPUI+on+April+15%2C+2022+Photo+credit%3A+Ethan+Morrison

Photo by Ethan Morrison

The team huddles before their game against IUPUI on April 15, 2022 Photo credit: Ethan Morrison

By Ethan Morrison, Assistant Sports Editor

Over the past three days, Robert Morris has pulled off an improbable feat in Youngstown, Ohio.

After winning their past four games, the Horizon League Softball Tournament will now face Oakland for the Horizon League Championship.

Quick Hits

Oakland is seeking their first Horizon League tournament championship since 2015 when they defeated Wright State 7-3 to move onto the NCAA Tournament. They faced both Michigan and Pittsburgh in the Ann Arbor Regional, dropping both games.

After moving from the Northeast Conference, Robert Morris is searching for their first Horizon League Tournament championship in program history in just their second season.

The Colonials are looking to reach the NCAA tournament for just the first time since 2005, when former Robert Morris athletic director Craig Coleman was at the helm when they defeated Wagner 6-4 in the NEC Championship.

The Colonials moved onto the NCAA Tournament to the Missouri Regional and fell 9-0 to Stanford and Missouri.

How They Got Here

After opening up the tournament with a 3-2 loss against Green Bay, the Colonials would have to make the longest possible journey to the championship game, having to win four games.

The hike started nearly two and a half hours after dropping the opening-round game to the Pheonix as they took on Youngstown State, a team that had their number in the regular season.

Just a little less than a week ago, the Guins’ swept RMU in the season’s final series. Even though the Colonials were swept in the series, they sent two of those games into extra innings.

After Youngstown State took an early lead in the bottom of the third inning, the Colonials had to fight and claw from behind after a Megan Turner two-run home run.

The Colonials fought back right away, cutting the lead to just one run off of a Taylor Rhinehart single which scored Avery Winchell. The Colonials tied the game up in the sixth with a Meadow Sacadura sac fly.

RMU took the lead for good as Winchell and Bell hit a single and a double to push the Colonials past the Penguins.

With Robert Morris through day one of the tournament, they shifted gears to Thursday as they had a rematch with Green Bay. The outcome was much different in this one as they rolled past the Phoneix 7-1 thanks to 11 hits for the Colonials and Dana Vatakis going a complete game and allowing just one run.

Robert Morris was halfway home in their quest to reach the Horizon League Championship as they took on Cleveland State Friday afternoon.

Sacadura and Charlotte Grover were the difference makers in this one. Sacadura, the former Maryland Terrapin, had three RBI and Grover hit a two-run home run which gave the Colonials the lead.

With Robert Morris just one win away, they had to take on Northern Kentucky, who they took two out of three games on the road earlier in the season. Rain delayed the game for over an hour, but a timely error from Maddie Lacer and the Norse put the Colonials ahead and sent them to the Horizon League Championship in two seasons.

The Golden Grizzlies had a much easier path to the championship game as they had to play just two games. After receiving a first-round bye as the no. 1 seed in the tournament, they faced Green Bay on Thursday and Northern Kentucky on Friday.

A Cammie Brummitt double was the difference-maker for Oakland in game one who scored Madison Jones and Shannon Carr.

On Friday, pitching was the difference-maker for Oakland. After throwing a complete game shutout, Sydney Campbell threw another complete game allowing just one run on five hits in the 3-0 win over Northern Kentucky.

Potent Players

With the championship game just two hours away, let’s look at some key players for both sides.

Look for Sydney Campbell to once again be in the circle for the Golden Grizzlies as she has been dominant in her redshirt sophomore season.

In her last four games, she has gone seven innings, with the lone game against Green Bay on May 6 being the latter half of the doubleheader where she started and went a complete game in game one.

For Campbell, she went 204 innings and posted a 1.68 ERA throughout the season.

In her outings against the Colonials, she went 1-1 in starts against Robert Morris. In the opening game of the three-game set, Campbell pitched a complete game while allowing just three hits. However, game two was a different story as she allowed four runs to cross over her seven innings of work.

If the Colonials want to have any shot at forcing a winner to take all game two at 12:30 p.m., it will have to be with the offense that was on display when their backs were against the wall.

It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see head coach Jexx Varner roll with Dana Vatakis in Saturday morning’s game as she would have had a full day’s rest after pitching 9.1 innings in the first two days of tournament action where she allowed just one run.

Vatakis appeared in one game against Oakland, where she went 3.2 innings allowing four runs and was handed the loss in the 6-0 defeat in game one of the regular-season series.

Outside of pitching for both squads, the Colonials and Golden Grizzlies will turn to their seasoned hitters as they look to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

For Robert Morris, it’s Meadow Sacadura. She has four hits throughout the Horizon League Tournament, each coming at timely moments in the game; she is also hitting .312 on the year.

Charlotte Grover has had a tournament to remember as she knocked the go-ahead home run against Cleveland State and is hitting .333 in the Horizon League Tournament with five hits.

Throughout the year, Madison Jones has led Oakland in offense, starting in all 40 games, posting a .333 average, tallying 47 hits and eight home runs.

However, she has struggled in tournament play, going 1-7 through two games thus far. Oakland will need her bat in this one if they want to get the job done and not have to play in a deciding second game.

The tournament has had its fair share of exciting moments throughout the past three days and the fourth and final day will look for more of the same. As one baseball writer always says… “It should be a good ballgame.”