Doubleheader split has Lakers searching for answers

GVL / Robert Mathews
Junior Anthony Campanella (25) sending the ball to first base.

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews Junior Anthony Campanella (25) sending the ball to first base.

Zach Sepanik

Inconsistency has plagued their season to this point, and the No. 21 Grand Valley State University baseball team took the road they’ve routinely traveled this season as road-trip to Hillsdale University yielded a 6-4 win in game one, but 5-2 loss in game two on Tuesday.

“It is kind of the way we have played this year — not as good as we like, but not terrible,” said GVSU head coach Steve Lyon. “It just seems like we can’t get over that hump and string a few wins in a row together. But we will keep plugging away. We just played OK, but not great in any phase of the game.”

That “hump” has prevented the Lakers (15-9, 5-5 GLIAC) from starting any solid winning streak. Furthermore, the doubleheader split to the Chargers (4-20, 2-10 GLIAC) has GVSU on the outside looking in when it comes to playing in the GLIAC tournament.

A come-from-behind effort and relief pitching helped the Lakers earn the win in game one and strengthen those post-season aspirations.

Senior Cory Rademacher started and pitched 3.1 innings, giving up eight hits and three runs, before giving way to senior Brett Gwaltney with the score tied at three. After one inning of relief that resulted in two hits, a walk and a run, giving GVSU their first deficit of the game, senior Jacob Cox came in to lock things down.

Down 4-3 in the top of the sixth, freshman shortstop Kevin Zak hit a one-out single. He was followed by a single from junior second baseman Stephen Claypool, who would eventually score in the inning.

An RBI single by Zak in the top of the sixth scored senior left fielder Steve Anderson, putting the game out of reach and giving Cox his second win of the season. Junior relief pitcher Brad Zambron pitched the final 1.1 innings, shutting down the Hillsdale offense to earn his fifth save.

Zak led the offense, collecting two hits, a run scored and an RBI, while also earning two walks. Also adding two hits each to the mix were Anderson and senior catcher Jared Cowan.

“We were hitting the ball hard. Everyone up and down the lineup contributed,” Zak said. “Overall, we are going to figure it out and become more consistent. Our outlook on the season is to just keep getting better. We want to be at our best at the end of the season.”

While the Lakers fought hard to come out with a win in game one, the nightcap saw the GVSU offense stymied by Chargers freshman starting pitcher Shane Armstrong, who pitched six innings, striking out three and giving up only six hits.

The Lakers got things started early, however, as consecutive doubles by senior Zach Laupp, who started at catcher, and Anderson gave the Lakers a quick 1-0 lead after the top of the first inning.

Hillsdale took the lead in the bottom of the inning and would add two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and one more in the sixth to cap off the scoring. Senior left fielder Mike Blanchard led the Chargers with two hits and three runs scored, helping rough up Laker starting pitcher senior Chris Whitney, who surrendered eight of the 10 Hillsdale hits, and four of the five runs.

“Hillsdale is a good hitting team, a better hitting team than we gave them credit for,” Rademacher said. “They are much better than a 4-20 team. But, we could have thrown better. The difference in the games was just execution. We laid down some good bunts and we had runners in scoring position numerous times in both games and we weren’t able to get them around to score.”

Opportunity is knocking as the Lakers now travel to University Center, Mich., for a pair of doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday against GLIAC-leading Saginaw Valley State University. [email protected]