GVSU softball outscores Purdue-Northwest 13-0 in doubleheader sweep

GVL / Emily Frye
Janae Langs

GVL / Emily Frye Janae Langs

Beau Troutman

The Grand Valley State softball team, ranked first in the GLIAC preseason poll and seventh in the country, began the season with high expectations.

The Lakers unexpectedly lost nine of their 12 games on the trip, causing a team that went to the Division II College World Series last year to reconvene and refocus.

They did just that, and the Lakers started to piece themselves back together with a doubleheader sweep over the Purdue-Northwest Pride on the road Sunday, March 19.

The Lakers (8-10) started the day with a 7-0 victory in game one thanks to a complete game shutout from sophomore ace Allison Lipovsky, who gave up only two hits and one walk to with 11 strikeouts.

Game two wasn’t much different, as the Lakers held on to a 1-0 lead until they scored five runs in the fifth on the way to a 6-0 win. Junior transfer pitcher Allie Grys followed Lipovsky’s performance with a complete game shutout of her own. She allowed four hits and two walks, and fanned five Pride batters.

“We put it all together today,” said GVSU coach Dana Callihan. “One thing that we really focused on throughout the week was getting the lead-off batter out. If somebody did get on, (we focused on) coming back and shutting down the next one and not letting things snowball. Both pitchers did a great job with that.”

The Lakers got a sneak-preview of the Pride, who will join the GLIAC as a full-time member in the 2017-18 season.

The Laker bats were active early in game one, and GVSU sophomore Shannon Flaherty got the scoring started with a base-clearing two-RBI double in the top of the first.

Senior Janae Langs, who played in her first game in the diamond since helping the women’s basketball team to a second-round berth in the NCAA tournament, doubled in her first at-bat of the season in the top of the second. She later scored on a sacrifice-fly from Kelsey Dominguez. Senior Jenna Lenza scored junior Kaylie Rhynard with an RBI single and the Lakers ended the inning with a 4-0 advantage.

“Florida was a little rough and we knew that we had a lot to work on this week,” Lenza said. “We focused on little things and put that into our games today. It was nice to see how the way the team started was not going to define the rest of our season.

“It was nice to see it was not all talk and we could actually do it.”

The Lakers got another RBI single from Lenza in the fifth and two more from Rhynard (sixth inning) and junior Tanner Kiessel (seventh inning).

Lenza, Rhynard, Flaherty and junior Teagan Shomin each batted 2-for-4 on the day.

The second game did not get off to as quick a start as the first. Shomin got the scoring started with a two-out RBI double in the top of the third inning. The Pride threatened the Lakers with a leadoff double in the bottom half of the inning, but Grys got the next two batters out to keep the 1-0 lead.

In the top of the fifth, the Lakers exploded for five runs thanks to a fielder’s choice RBI from Dominguez and a pair of two-RBI doubles from Lenza and senior Ellie Balbach. Balbach led the Lakers at the plate, batting 3-for-4 with the two scores.

Grys secured the win with her best performance to date in her first season wearing Laker blue.

“I think I’m adjusting how I should be,” Grys said. “The team always has my back, there’s good leadership and communication.”

GVSU begins conference play this weekend. The Lakers will travel to Ashland for a doubleheader Saturday, March 25 ad then to Ohio Dominican Sunday, March 26 for another doubleheader matchup. The Lakers hope to prove the struggles of the spring break trip are behind them.

“We just have to go in and play the best that we can play if we want to compete in the GLIAC,” Callihan said. “We have to do it day in and day out, every inning, every pitch.”