Robert Morris Splits Doubleheader with Conference Rival Oakland


The Colonials split the doubleheader against Oakland, losing game one 3-0 and winning 4-3 in game two Photo credit: Cam Wickline

Nate Fanell

In a rematch of last year’s conference championship, Robert Morris (21-20, 11-7 Horizon League) hosted Oakland (15-17, 11-6) on Thursday for a Horizon League heavyweight doubleheader in which the Golden Grizzlies won game one, 3-0, and the Colonials coming out on top in game two by the smallest of margins, 4-3.

Oakland was able to get out to an early lead in the first game. After the first two batters of the inning were retired, the Golden Grizzlies were able to load the bases. Leah Bieniewicz would deliver, singling to center field and driving in the game’s first two runs.

The early lead proved to be more than enough for Oakland as Sydney Campbell absolutely dazzled in the circle for the Golden Grizzlies, turning in a complete game shutout while allowing just five hits and striking out seven. Oakland’s ace dominated the Colonials lineup throughout most of the game, allowing just one hit through five innings.

Head coach Jexx Varner had nothing but good things to say when speaking about the conference’s reigning Pitcher of the Year and explained what makes her so effective,

“Without getting into too many logistics, she does a great job of changing speeds and she pounds the zone, makes you make adjustments, and spins the ball. She’s one of the best for a reason”

Avery Winchell homered in the game 2 win over Oakland Photo credit: Cam Wickline

“We had seven strikeouts, and just didn’t get the two strike balls in play like they did. Their three runs all came on 0-2 pitches, they did a good job of getting the bat on the ball with two strikes and we didn’t do so. That’s a completely different game if we just do the same thing.”

Varner detailed the message he provided his team regarding the adjustments that needed to be made,

“It’s just attacking.” he said. “We talked about that after the first game. Whether it’s with two strikes, need to get balls in play and get aggressive in the zone. We knew who the pitcher was going to be and what we could attack.”

“We always talk about this after a loss, I can’t change that outcome. The only thing left to do is go win the next one, and you can change a lot of things if you win the next one. We put ourselves in a position to win the series, and that’s what we need.” Coach Varner stated.

The Colonials were able to rebound in a tightly contested game two. Oakland once again was able to score first, as they took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. However, Robert Morris was able to strike back in a big way in the bottom half of the frame. The Colonials put up four runs in the inning, highlighted by an Avery Winchell three-run home run.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to get anything good because I had a good hit in my first at-ba,” Winchell said. “I was just looking for something to drive. With runners on, you want to look for something to put in the green and drive them in.”

Robert Morris went on to allow another run in the sixth inning on a Reese Ruhlman solo homer. The Colonials clung to their lead the rest of the way, defeating the Golden Grizzlies and splitting the doubleheader.

When asked what it meant for the team to be able to rebound in the second game and even the series, Coach Varner described its impact on the upcoming conference tournament,

“The split is huge. It keeps us in the ability to win the series,” he said. “With a win, we can get ourselves back into the top of the conference and in one of the two bye spots, which is ultimately so important when it comes to conference tournaments.”

The Colonials are expected to face Oakland’s ace Sydney Campbell once again tomorrow. Avery Winchell described what the offense has to do in order to break through against her and take the rubber match,

“Pressure. Sydney [Campbell] is a great pitcher and did a great job today. She pulled her raised ball out on us. It’s definitely about having our at-bats swinging at our pitches and making her work. As long as we put pressure on her and the defense, I think we’ll be successful.”

Robert Morris is set to host Oakland tomorrow in the rubber match at 1 p.m. in a game that is set to have plenty of implications on the Horizon League standings.