Gevaart’s gem highlights GVSU split at Walsh

Pete Barrows

At 10 a.m. Sunday morning, an inch of snow coated the Walsh University softball field. The outfield was waterlogged with leveed runoff, a breeze brought a chill to infield, but for the first time since March 8, the Grand Valley State University softball team returned to the dirt — and by 2 p.m. in the afternoon, morning winter storm be damned, the teams played ball.

As rays of sun fell upon the dugout on a day that transformed into a vague impression of spring, the Lakers split an afternoon twinbill with Walsh University — a 3-2 loss in game one and a 1-0 win in game two.

Some rust from a three-week hiatus was left for the Lakers to melt off with the last piles of lingering snow, but for the day, simply playing outside was progress.

“The conditions were good, not ideal,” senior third baseman Miranda Cleary said. “The outfield was a little damp, it was a little chilly, but it felt great to get finally back to it. Skill wise, there wasn’t too much rust for us, but it’s good for us to start getting back in the swing of things.”

Protected by a rain tarp, the Walsh field was cleared of an inclement rain and ice cocktail and then swept clean of snow with a band of snow blowers and shovels. The day before Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, the game wouldn’t be stopped.

Neither would GVSU junior starting pitcher Lauren Gevaart.

The teams were tied 2-2 entering the bottom of the seventh inning of game one, but Walsh scored on a squeeze bunt and walked-off with the win, although GVSU didn’t score again all afternoon.

Gevaart pitched a three-hit complete-game shutout in game two, and the Lakers — after allowing a two-run, three-error inning in game one that gave Walsh an early lead — did not record a single fielding error in the rematch.

“Sometimes when I get behind in the count, I struggle, but I stayed ahead, which keeps the other team off balance, me in control and our defense in the game,” Gevaart said. “We didn’t hit great as a team, but we still played really solid defense.

“In my start, there were no errors, the defense backed me up the whole game, and I felt really confident out on the mound.”

GVSU’s hits were, like the games played this season, few and far between for stretches on Sunday, but they were timely like a combined effort of Walsh’s ground crew and cooperating afternoon weather.

Senior first baseman Tonya Calkins hit in both runs in game one with an RBI double to tie the score, but it was Cleary who knocked in the winning score with an RBI ground-out to third that scored freshman second baseman Jenna Lenza in the first inning of game two.

“Defense tends to win games, and I thought we improved quite a bit in that regard from the first game to the second,” GVSU coach Doc Woods said. “Lauren (Gevaart) had a real nice start with lots of strikeouts and worked out of some jams, we got to see a different pitcher for a change, and a good one — Casi Rohr pitched both games — and the hitting will continue to come.

“We’re a good offensive team and got what we needed today, but as we start playing more games in April, figure out how to get girls in scoring position more and don’t have a three-week break again, I think we’ll start hitting even better.”

GVSU (11-4) will play again Monday with a 10 a.m. doubleheader scheduled against Lake Erie College (3-10).