Not even swirling 37 mph winds could slow down the high-scoring Grand Valley State University softball team as it added four wins to its growing total this past weekend, headlined by a pair against the University of Findlay on Sunday, 14-2 and 9-1.
“It wasn’t all that fun out there,” said junior pitcher Andrea Nicholson of the inclement weather. “Sometimes it turns into a wind tunnel down there, but we practice on it so much that you just get used to it.”
The Lakers (32-7, 18-4 GLIAC) took on three conference opponents over the weekend in Tiffin University (25-10, 16-4 GLIAC), Wayne State University (21-18-1, 9-8-1 GLIAC) and Findlay (18-16-1, 6-12 GLIAC).
Despite the weather, the Lakers split with Tiffin and Wayne State before overcoming a slow first inning to take control in the opener against Findlay. Trailing 1-0, GVSU batted around in the second inning, scoring nine runs thanks to two hits apiece from sophomores Brittany and Briauna Taylor.
“Sometimes teams don’t know whether we’re are going to hit it or bunt it,” said Brittany Taylor, who went 5-for-6 on the day. “That small ball isn’t always expected from our team every game.”
While the strong winds limited the Lakers’ most valuable weapon in game one, the home run, they put together nine runs on 10 hits – nine singles and a bases-clearing triple by Briauna Taylor.
“That’s something we talked about before the game. That wind blowing in was going to make this a small-ball game,” said GVSU head coach Doug Woods. “You know, the bunts and the moving the runners up and all of that — they responded real well.”
In three double-headers this past week, the Lakers have struggled in the nightcaps. After scoring 31 runs in the three openers, GVSU had scored only four total runs in three nightcap losses.
“I told them that before the first game and they were like, ‘woah,’” Woods said. “You always have to look at what pitchers they’re throwing – it’s probably a combination of things – but certainly they responded pretty well today.”
The nightcap saw GVSU rediscover the deep ball thanks to sophomore pitcher Katie Martin. After going 1-for-3 in the opener, Martin smacked her 16th home run of the season, a towering two-run shot to right field that soared almost 20 feet over the fence and onto the shot put landing area.
Not to be outdone, freshman third basemen Miranda Cleary clubbed her 17th home run of the season, taking the team lead back from Martin, with a solo shot to centerfield in the fifth. It was the fourth time this season that “MC Hammer”, as Woods has nicknamed them, have each homered in the same game.
“I think the mix (of small ball and home runs) makes us an even better team,” Brittany Taylor said. “It shows that we have every offensive aspect down pact.”
One of the biggest improvements for the Lakers recently has been their pitching. After carrying a 4.11 ERA one start into April, Nicholson has carried the staff since by going 7-0 with a tidy 2.00, lowering her season ERA to 3.01.
Fellow pitcher Hannah Santora, a sophomore, has also pitched well this season and continued that success in the nightcap by throwing six innings of one-run ball while retiring the final 10 batters she faced.
“That helps everybody with your pitchers keeping you in the game,” said Woods. “The biggest thing is that you can cut down on the walks. Hannah threw without walking someone today, and she’s made big improvements in that.”
The Lakers will return to action Wednesday when they host Hillsdale at home for a doubleheader. Game one will begin at 3:30 p.m., and game two, which will be the final home game of the regular season, is slated to start at 5:30 p.m.