GVSU sweeps Lake Superior State with ease

GVL / Luke Holmes - Ellie Balbach (11) makes contact with the ball. Grand Valley Womens Softball won 9-5 in their first game against Lake Superior State.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Ellie Balbach (11) makes contact with the ball. Grand Valley Women’s Softball won 9-5 in their first game against Lake Superior State.

Alex Eisen

Being a heavy favorite is desired, but also a dangerous position to be in.

On the pre-game program, the Grand Valley State softball team (30-8, 15-5 GLIAC) was undeniably the superior Laker squad taking the field. Unsurprisingly, GVSU swept a home doubleheader against the conference last-place Lakers of Lake Superior State (5-31, 1-19 GLIAC) by scores of 9-5 and 12-0 (five innings) on April 19.

GVSU reached the 30-win plateau for the sixth straight season by bashing six home runs on the day, but just as significant were the five runs given up in the first game to a team which only has five wins on the season.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get fired up for a game like this,” said GVSU head coach Dana Callihan. “Especially this week, since it’s the last week of classes and their brains are around that and preparing for exams. But, we got the job done.”

LSSU opened the scoring in game one in the top of the second inning on a two-out grounder that grazed off senior McKenze Supernaw’s glove. LSSU’s only lead of the day didn’t last long. Laker sophomore Tanner Kiessel tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom half on a sacrifice fly.

Fellow sophomore Teagan Shomin caught everyone’s attention in the top of third on a diving catch on a scorching line drive.

“I don’t know if that set the tone, but other good things happened after that,” Shomin said. “It just so happens that my good thing came first. Any way I can help the team and they helped me out too. We all helped each other with this win.”

Freshman Allison Lipovsky, reigning GLIAC Pitcher of the Week, worked through a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the top of the fourth with a strikeout and groundout before the GVSU bats finally showed some life.

Supernaw and freshman Shannon Flaherty hit the first back-to-back home runs of the season to center field, and center fielder Janae Langs added another run on a single off an infielder’s glove to extend the lead to 4-1.

In the top of the sixth, LSSU pulled a run back on another infield single that bounced over the head of newly introduced relief pitcher Ellie Balbach, who stepped in for Lipovsky.

Nelly’s “Here Comes The Boom” got plenty of airtime in the bottom half of the inning. After sophomore catcher Kaylie Rhynard lined a RBI single to left field, GVSU began to wear out its home run soundtrack. A pair of two-run homers from junior Jenna Lenza and Supernaw blew the game open, 9-2.

Supernaw, coincidentally, was the last Laker to belt two home runs in a game, and did so against LSSU on April 7, 2015.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Supernaw said. “I know I started off a little slow at the beginning (of the season), so I’ve been taking extra BP (batting practice) and (going through) extra buckets (of balls). I think my timing is coming back and I’m just attacking more—being more aggressive.”

LSSU narrowly escaped the eight-run-lead-after-five-innings mercy rule, and proceeded to tee off on Balbach in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on five hits.

“We kind of left the door open for Lake Superior,” Callihan said. “We’ve been talking all year about having a killer instinct and that’s what I’d like to see.”

That’s exactly what Callihan got in the nightcap.

First, Langs launched a two-run home run in the third inning. Flaherty followed in the next inning, curling her second homer of the day around the foul pole in left to increase the lead to 5-0.

“We don’t talk about hitting home runs,” Callihan said. “We just talk about (having) good, quality at-bats and they just happened to go over the fence. They hit the ball hard, the wind was blowing out and it worked out in our favor.”

The offense didn’t let up even though it was finished going yard. GVSU tied a season-high in hits (15) with five Lakers having a multi-hit game. The Lakers effectively exposed LSSU’s pitching woes.

When the dust finally settled, GVSU led 12-0 going to the bottom of the fifth.

Starting pitcher Courtney Reinhold sealed the victory pitching a 1-2-3 inning to enforce the mercy rule. Reinhold threw 61 pitches in the shutout, struck out six and allowed two hits.

GVSU has three more home doubleheaders to close out the regular season. The Lakers host Malone on April 22 starting at 3 p.m. and then Walsh and Hillsdale on April 23 and 24 starting at 1 p.m.