GVSU softball sweeps Ferris State

GVL / Kasey Garvelink - Shannon Flaherty plays in the Women’s Softball game against Ferris State on Apr. 5, 2016 in Allendale.

Kasey Garvelink

GVL / Kasey Garvelink – Shannon Flaherty plays in the Women’s Softball game against Ferris State on Apr. 5, 2016 in Allendale.

Alex Eisen

Unpredictable Michigan weather spoiled the first two opportunities, but the long-anticipated home opener for the Grand Valley State softball team was well worth the wait.

On a brisk spring afternoon, the Lakers (20-6, 5-3 GLIAC) survived a pair of nail-biting, one-run games to sweep previously unbeaten in-conference rivals Ferris State (21-11, 6-2 GLIAC) by scores of 3-2 and 6-5 on April 5.

“We talked about it yesterday in practice and today before the game about just being hungry,” said GVSU head coach Dana Callihan. “They came out and did that. They never gave up and that’s what these battles are like. We have to continue to do that for the rest of the conference season.”

GVSU was scheduled to host Ferris State on April 3, but snow in April pushed the doubleheader to April 5. The Lakers’ original home opener against Aquinas in mid-March was canceled and not rescheduled due inclement weather.

Game one against Ferris State featured freshman starting pitcher Allison Lipovsky making her first collegiate home start. Lipovsky struggled with her command early on, throwing five straight balls to begin the game. She walked a season-high six batters in total.

The Bulldogs used that to their advantage, scoring a leadoff walk in the top of the first inning following a Laker throwing error while trying to convert a double play.

GVSU answered back by loading the bases in the bottom half of the inning and scoring twice. Senior McKenze Supernaw dropped in a blooper between the infield and right field for the first run, and an error on a routine groundout plated junior Jenna Lenza.

Capitalizing on errors and timely hitting stood out as the difference-makers throughout, as the Lakers notched six singles and didn’t draw a walk in the contest.

“It’s not very common, that’s for sure,” Callihan said. “But, we got the hits when we needed them and that’s really what matters. You need the hits that knock the runs in and take advantage of the things they give you.”

This is the second time this season GVSU has won without recording an extra-base hit. The Lakers defeated Southern Indiana on March 8 during their spring break trip using, ironically enough, six singles to win 3-2.

“It shows that we use a lot of teamwork. We rely on each other to get the job done,” said junior Ellie Balbach.

Ferris State reloaded the bases in the top of the third inning and Lipovsky walked in the tying run with nobody out, but from there she bunkered down.

Sophomore shortstop Teagan Shomin picked up the first out on a force-out at home as catcher Kaylie Rhynard reeled in a slightly dangerous throw to the plate. Lipovsky then recorded a timely strikeout and a fielder’s choice to get out of trouble.

Similar to the opening frame, GVSU responded in the bottom half of the inning with assistance from Ferris State in what would turn out to be the winning run.

Lenza led off and reached first base on a throwing error. She eventually came around to score her second run of the game when Balbach singled to center and the Bulldogs’ outfielder couldn’t corral the ball cleanly.

Lipovsky lasted 3.2 innings and threw an even 100 pitches. Sophomore Courtney Reinhold needed half as many pitches (50) to get through the remaining 3.1 innings.

Reinhold didn’t allow a hit until Ferris State was down to its final out—the last strike to be exact. The Bulldogs’ last-ditch double was made even more interesting when the tying run advanced to third base on an infield single.

Reinhold, unfazed, shut the door and squeezed the final out on a pop-up lifted to the middle of the diamond.

“Knowing you can depend on the other pitchers is awesome,” Balbach said, who got the ball to start game two. “Pitching by committee. I believe in every single one of our pitchers.”

In compliance to GLIAC rules, the Lakers led off to begin the nightcap.

After back-to-back bunts and a wild pitch, Rhynard opened the scoring with a head-first slide on a fielder’s choice. Ferris State got the out at first base, but Rhynard took off on the throw to the first and narrowly beat the throw home.

Junior Janae Langs, fresh off her heroics for the GVSU women’s basketball team, provided more flair for the dramatics by crushing her first career home run to right-center field in the top of the second inning to extend the Lakers’ lead, 2-0.

“We were actually just talking, my teammates and I, about how I didn’t think I would ever hit a college home run,” Langs said. “Then, I go out and hit one. It’s an incredible feeling.

“It’s a totally different ballgame (compared to basketball). This is just one at-bat of many to come and the basketball season was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

GVSU pushed across another run in the second inning off a Bulldog throwing error, and scored again in the fourth on an RBI single from senior Chelsea Horvath. Shomin crossed home plate on both occasions.

Shomin was unconventionally efficient throughout the game, going 0-for-1 (reaching on an error, hit by pitch and walk), yet managed to score three runs in all three of her plate appearances.

A Ferris State two-run home run in the fourth inning and a two-RBI single in the fifth inning meant it was back to square one with the score tied at 4-4. That was enough for Reinhold to replace Balbach and head back to the circle for another relief appearance.

Freshman Rachel Terwilliger cashed in the last Shomin run in the top of the sixth on an RBI double, but she was caught in a rundown between second and third base. The baserunning blunder ended up costing the Lakers a run as the next batter, Horvath, singled and advanced to second on a fielding error.

The lost insurance run looked detrimental in the bottom half of the inning when Ferris State launched a leadoff home run to tie the score at 5-5 and loaded the bases with one out.

Enter in senior Sara Andrasik. After throwing multiple sessions in the bullpen throughout the afternoon, Andrasik delivered when she was needed the most. She struck out the first batter looking on a full count pitch and induced a groundout to neutralize the bases-loaded threat.

“You have to go in there, do your job and shut them down,” Andrasik said. “(I) stayed confident that no one was going score. (I) trusted my defense and myself.”

GVSU carried the newly found momentum into the top of the seventh inning. Freshman Shannon Flaherty led off with a single, was sacrificed over to second and then made a heads-up read on a Balbach groundout to scamper over to third.

Supernaw split the gap in right-center for the two-out, go-ahead RBI double.

A 1-2-3 inning by Andrasik in the bottom of the seventh sealed the victory over the Bulldogs, 6-5, as Andrasik claimed her team-leading seventh win of the season.

The Lakers host Northwood on April 7 for another conference twinbill starting at 3:30 p.m. As part of Heritage Week, the first 100 fans in attendance will receive free pizza.