GVSU softball prepares for World Series

GVL / Robert Mathews
Head Coach Doug Woods

GVL / Robert Mathews Head Coach Doug Woods

Pete Barrows

It was a decade ago that all-everything pitcher Jenn Mackson, now a pitching coach on GVSU’s staff, patrolled the mound at Grand Valley State University, although her lore still intertwines frequently with the current mythos being dictated by Laker softball.

Senior pitcher Hannah Santora drew recollections with her 15-1 start to the season, one game short of Mackson’s 16-0 start in 2003, and Santora has put up the highest single season win total (25) since Mackson’s Denny McLain-esque program record 30-win season in 2003.

Senior Katie Martin, who is now the only GVSU player to ever be named an NFCA first team All-American twice and has earned All-American laurels for three straight seasons and was also named Daktronics National Player of the Year – joins former slugger Kim Biskup (2000), who’s home run record Martin surpassed this season, and Mackson as GVSU’s only three-time First Team All-American representatives in program history.

From 2001 to 2004, the Lakers went 182-33-2 (.843), winning 49 games in both 2002 and 2003, tied for the second highest win total in school history.

After an inauspicious 22-24 start to the tenure as freshman in 2010, the Lakers current senior class went on to field an 130-38 record over three seasons (152-62, .711 over four years), accumulating three Midwest Regional Tournament appearances, two visits to the Midwest Super Regional and a World Series berth along the way. GVSU’s current 44-7 mark is good for the seventh-most victories in a season in program history.

“I’m just so proud of our team and the seniors – great leadership all the way through and they’ve just been a great group to work with,” said GVSU head coach Doc Woods. “It’s exciting when you get a great group like, they get success and that just means so much.”

In 2002, the Lakers advanced to the NCAA World Series for the first time in school history and came up one win short, shutout by the St. Mary’s Rattlers in the title game. It’s an iconic team in GVSU history, but perhaps not the gold standard for much longer. The 2013 Lakers are well aware of what it takes to rewrite history and once again will receive an opportunity to extend the accomplishments and lineage of their GVSU softball predecessors.

“It was a while ago and everything’s a little bit different, but that team we had an All-American pitcher (Mackson) – we’ve got two real good pitchers right now (Sanotra and freshman Sara Andrasik),” Woods said. “We we’re a good defensive team, this team’s a good defensive team. Hitting wise we might be a little stronger with this team so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.”

Eight teams made the trip out to Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, Va. – only one will emerge a champion. Entering the tournament on the wings of victory over the NFCA No. 1 ranked University of Indianapolis with the fewest losses of any team left playing in Division II, GVSU has a legitimate title shot and perhaps as much confidence as any Super Regional champ.

“It’s great going in knowing that we just beat the number one team in the nation and we should have some confidence from that,” Martin said. “We should feel like we can beat anyone now.”

GVSU has only played the other seven remaining tournament teams a combined six times with a cumulative 3-3 record in those meetings and has never before faced Armstrong Atlantic State, Central Oklahoma, Humboldt State, or Texas Woman’s universities. Over the past three years, four of those contests have been against Kutztown University, the Lakers first round opponent who topped GVSU 1-0 last time they met in 2012. 2-2 against Kutztown all-time, the Lakers are favored to advance, but in uncharted territory where momentum swings with every cut of an aluminum bat against unfamiliar, highly motivated opponents, GVSU must take care not to overlook anyone.

“I think that (momentum) helps, absolutely, but we’re so excited right now, I actually think we need to settle down a little bit – we’re all kind of on the ‘win high’ type of deal,” Martin said. “We need to calm down, settle in. Obviously we should have confidence, but you have to go in with a clean slate.”

Owners of the third-best winning percentage (.863) in all of Division II, GVSU also enters the tournament armed with the 14th-best team ERA in the country behind Andrasik’s 1.54 ERA and Santora’s 1.62 ERa sub-two marks and the 26th best team slugging percentage (.489) behind Katie Martin’s GLIAC single-season record 80 RBI and 58 career homeruns, fifth most in Division II history.

“Obviously you have to pitch, hit and field, but I would definitely say staying together as a team (will be the biggest key),” Martin said. “I think this postseason we’ve really focused on the team, everything you do is for the team. I feel like everyone on our team played very selfless today and that’s wonderful when you have those people on the bunch that just back you up. I think everybody played a very crucial part today and I think if we go in with that mentality that it’s our team winning those games next week and not an individual, I think we’ll be golden.”

Grand Valley will take on Kutztown this afternoon beginning at 5 p.m. and if successful, will move on to face the winner of game four between Texas Woman’s and Humboldt. The national championship game will be played Monday May 27 at noon. Below are each of the four first found match-up previews.

To view the NCAA World Series bracket in it’s entirety, complete with real time score updates, visit: http://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracket/softball/d2.

Live video of all tournament games can also be streamed here: http://www.ncaa.com/liveschedule/2013/05/23

Game Three: 5 p.m.

Kutztown University Golden Bears
Record: 34-21 (.618)
Regional: Atlantic
Momentum: 11-game winning streak

The Golden Bears enter the World Series with the more losses than any of the other seven contenders and struggled this season away from home (7-9 away, 13-7 neutral). Lucky for Kutztown, they just so happen to be playing their best ball of the season. With sophomores Mary Kociencki and Domonique Ficara on the mound, Kutztown allowed only three runs in five NCAA tournament games, tied with Texas Women’s University for the fewest allowed in tournament play, and have produced a stingy 2.52 team ERA on the season.

Like the Lakers, the Pirates will suffer no lack of experience in the dugout as head coach Judy Lawes has accumulated a 774-413-2 (.652) career record in her 25 seasons at KU, which places her securely among the top 25 active Division II coaches with Doc Woods.

Grand Valley State University Lakers
NFCA Rank: No. 9
Record: 44-7 (.863)
Regional: West
Momentum: One-game winning streak

Through 11 games of postseason play, Katie Martin has batted .483 with seven extra-base hits, three home runs and 14 RBI helping to support the outstanding one-two punch of Santora-Andrasik, who have combined to go 8-3 with a save a piece, pitching 45 combined strikeouts to only 22 walks and have yet to allow a playoff triple or homerun. One of the deeper and most balanced rosters in the tournament, the Lakers posses every requisite component to become a champion.

Game Four: 7:30 p.m.

Texas Woman’s University Pioneers
NFCA Rank: No. 6
Record: 51-12 (.810)
Regional: South Central
Momentum: 10-game winning streak

A team with both power and speed to spare, TWU will make their first World Series appearance and boasts a roster complete with two 20-home run hitters – senior Jordan Readicker (21) and junior Katie Hines (25) – and a burglar in junior Bailey Vrazel, who has successfully stolen 52 bases on 59 attempts this season. The Pioneers will be forced to face their mirror image in HSU Thursday, the winner likely being decided by which nation leading left-handed home run slugger, Hines or Chrissy Stalf, makes a more defined impact on the game.

Humboldt State University Lumberjacks
NFCA Rank: No. 5
Record: 52-12 (.812)
Regional: West
Momentum: 17-game winning streak

The Jacks, who won tittles in 1999 and 2008, have slugged 111 home runs on the season (10 grand slams), led by senior Chrissy Stalf who has 27, both marks one homer shy of the respective NCAA Division II single-season records. Five other Lumberjacks have 11 or more home runs and few lineups in the World Series tournament figure to be foreboding at the plate.

Game One: 12 p.m.

Central Oklahoma University Bronchos
NFCA Rank: No. 19
Record: 47-11 (.810)
Regional: Central
Momentum: Five-game winning streak

For the second year in a row, the Bronchos, who this year set the Central Oklahoma University record for most wins in a season, will make a World Series appearance with senior designated player Kelcie Edwards and her .410 average, 18 home runs, 14 doubles and 60 runs batted in leading the charge. Edwards owns nine school records, including career marks for at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, homers and RBI, make her essentially the Central Oklahoma version of Katie Martin.

Armstrong Atlantic University Pirates
NFCA Rank: No. 4
Record: 42-8-1 (.818)
Regional: Southeast
Momentum: Five-game winning streak

For the third consecutive season, the Pirates were represented on the NFCA All-American team as junior Kacie Patterson, who batted .421 with seven doubles, two triples, a homerun and 14 RBI’s while fielding .959 with 43 putouts and 121 assists, will man the hot corner on the third team. For the first time in school history, the Pirates will contend for a Division II colleges softball World Series title. Senior Shelby Duff, the AAU career leader in doubles (56) and runner-up in at-bats, hits, runs and career batting average, will also aspire to be a tricky out in tournament play.

Game Two: 2:30 p.m.

Valdosta State University Blazers
NFCA Rank: No. 3
Record: 46-11 (.807)
Regional: South
Momentum: One-game losing streak

The defending World Series champs aren’t quite as imposing as they were when they went 58-5 (.921) in 2012, but they have plenty of pedigree and pop, led by Daktronics All-South Region Player of the Year sophomore Courtney Albritton hitter extraordinaire, who has batted 19 triples and 18 home runs in 2013 to go with a .419 average, to make another run.

Molloy University Lions
NFCA Rank: No. 27
Record: 52-12 (.812)
Regional: East
Momentum: Eight-game winning streak

Making their second World Series appearance in four years, Molloy is led by the East Region Pitcher of the year, senior southpaw Megan Butterworth, who has curated a 28-5 record on the season while maintaining a 1.05 ERA. The Lions set a school win record mark this season and have played superb ball behind Butterworth, who had 20 strikeouts in 12 innings of super regional play.

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