GVSU softball sweeps Findlay, Tiffin in home doubleheaders

GVL/Hannah Zajac - Brooke Little (17) takes a swing during the game on Saturday, April 8, 2017.

Hannah Zajac

GVL/Hannah Zajac – Brooke Little (17) takes a swing during the game on Saturday, April 8, 2017.

Beau Troutman

Junior catcher Jessica Ramos celebrated her birthday Saturday, April 8, and the Grand Valley State softball team held quite a party.

The Lakers hosted two doubleheaders this weekend and went a perfect 4-0. GVSU played the Findlay Oilers Saturday and won by scores of 6-0 and 6-4. On Sunday, April 9, the Lakers defeated the Tiffin Dragons 1-0 in extra innings thanks to a walk-off home run from Jenna Lenza. GVSU cruised to victory in an 11-3 win over the Dragons in game two, clinching the unblemished weekend.

The Lakers (17-15, 7-5 GLIAC) have now won five of their last six games and are undefeated this season at home (6-0).

“We got a win streak, I like that,” said GVSU coach Dana Callihan. “We’re starting to get some momentum. You can definitely tell the confidence is returning. They’re stepping up to the plate with confidence. Defensively we’re doing it, pitchers are getting their confidence. When you get that, you can start on a roll.

“It’s a nice feeling.”

In the first game, GVSU scored two runs each in the first, fourth and fifth innings en route to a 6-0 shutout. The Lakers got on the scoreboard early in the bottom of the first thanks to an RBI-double from senior Kelsey Dominguez. That was followed by a base hit from sophomore Shannon Flaherty.

At the next at-bat, Ramos hit a ball to the Findlay shortstop, who hesitated throwing to second, and scored Dominguez from third to make it 2-0.

Protecting the lead was no issue. Sophomore ace Allison Lipovsky went seven innings and allowed just three hits, three walks and had seven strikeouts.

The Lakers got RBI singles in the fourth inning from senior Ellie Balbach and Kelsey Dominguez to make it 4-0. In the fifth, Lenza knocked in an RBI-double and then reached home plate later in the inning thanks to a Findlay error.

In the second game Saturday, GVSU fell behind to the Oilers 3-0 in the first inning. The Oilers kept that lead until the top of the fifth inning, when Ramos stepped up to bat. Ramos blasted her first career home run as a Laker—on her birthday.

“This ranks pretty high in my birthdays,” Ramos said. “This is a great day. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on my birthday.”

That cut the deficit to 3-1, but the Lakers still had work to do. Freshman Kelcie LaTour recorded an RBI single in the top of the sixth inning to make it 3-2. Junior Teagan Shomin scored from second base on a throwing error after getting the leadoff single to start the inning.

A few at-bats later, freshman Jenna Czart—who didn’t have a single hit to her name going into the game—was up to bat with two outs. Czart drove the ball down the right field line for her first career hit and first career RBI for the go-ahead run. That gave GVSU a 4-3 advantage and its first lead of the game.

That’s not a bad way to start a collegiate career.

“It felt really good to do that for my team,” Czart said. “We were down 3-0, so it was nice to come back and score that run.”

GVSU briefly lost the lead in the bottom of the sixth. The Oilers had a runner on second base with two outs. Findlay batter Madison Arnold hit a groundball to relief pitcher Courtney Reinhold, who needed to make a routine throw to first base for the final out. Reinhold committed a throwing error, though, scoring the runner from second and tying the game at 4-4.

The tie didn’t last long. Sophomore Shannon Flaherty notched a two-out RBI single to regain the lead. Ramos followed that with an RBI single of her own to give the Lakers a two-run cushion and cap off one heck of a birthday. Reinhold rectified her mistake in the sixth and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning to end the game.

“Second game was pure guts,” Callihan said. “It definitely was pure guts. We haven’t seen that a lot this year, so it was nice to see that come up.”

Ramos led all batters at the plate and went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Flaherty, Shomin and LaTour each recorded two hits. Reinhold, who came in for relief for Balbach, got the win. She pitched 4.1 innings, allowed four hits, two walks and had two strikeouts.

In the first game Sunday against the Dragons, the Lakers would again need pure guts. GVSU played in its first extra innings game at home since April 18, 2014—a 3-1 win over the Dragons, coincidentally.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Lenza walked up to the plate. She a took a first-pitch strike, and the Dragons’ pitcher came at Lenza again with the second pitch—that proved to be a mistake. Lenza went yard to centerfield and got her second walk-off home run of the year to give GVSU the 1-0 win.

“You’re like, ‘Is it going to go? Is it going to go?’” Lenza said. “And then you don’t know and you get excited, and then once you see it go over it’s such a great feeling, not only for yourself but to know that was a win for your team.”

Lenza is batting a team-high .471 this season. She also leads the team in doubles (16) and RBIs (24). She was named GLIAC Hitter of the Week last week.

Speaking of players of the week, Lipovsky—who was awarded Pitcher of the Week last week—got the win in the 1-0 pitchers’ duel. She pitched all eight innings, fanning 11 batters and allowing just three hits and no walks.

For the weekend, she gave up only seven hits and had 215 pitches between the two starts. She is now 7-3 on the season with a 1.45 ERA in 12 starts.

“I focused more on not trying to overpower them, but just throw strikes,” Lipovsky said. “If they hit it, they hit it. I have my fielders behind me, and I just trust my defense and do my job.”

In the final game of the weekend, the Lakers won 11-3 and the game ended by mercy rule after the fifth inning. The Lakers outhit the Dragons 15-7. Senior Janae Langs went 4-for-4 from the plate with two RBIs and was a home run shy of the cycle. LaTour went 3-for-4 with four RBIs. Reinhold (4-4) got her second win of the weekend after pitching just three innings.

The Lakers will travel to Rensselaer, Indiana to face St. Joe’s College for a doubleheader Tuesday, April 11. The doubleheader was rescheduled to this week after being postponed last week.