Lefty with intensity: GVSU to lean on Balbach

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Ellie Balbach

GVL/Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Ellie Balbach

Brodie Orent

To Grand Valley State softball coach Dana Callihan, sophomore pitcher Ellie Balbach is intense. Whether it’s on the diamond or in the weight room, Balbach goes hard.

Balbach, who also plays first base, is the only left-hander in GVSU’s rotation. Callihan said it’s important to have a southpaw in the mix because it adds a little spark from a pitching perspective. This not only provides the Lakers with an edge in games, but also in batting practice.

“It gives us a chance as hitters to see that angle,” Callihan said.

Callihan said Balbach didn’t see as much time as she would’ve liked during her freshman season, but the sophomore is expected to be a big part of the pitching staff and batting order this year.

Equipped with a drop ball, a curve ball, a changeup and a rise ball, Balbach figures to fan her fair share of opposing hitters. In her first two starts this season, she is 2-0 with one complete game, a 3.11 ERA and a 9:5 K/BB ratio.

She also does damage in the batter’s box.

Through five games, Balbach leads the team in batting average, hitting .500 with two doubles and 2 RBIs, and paces the team in walks with six.

“Ellie is swinging a hot bat right now, no doubt about that,” Callihan said. “She was very disciplined over the weekend. She had only two strikeouts and six walks.”

The sophomore brings versatility, which leads to flexibility with lineups.

She also brings passion.

“She’s intense, so you just need to deal with her personality in that regard and just know that’s the way she is,” Callihan said.

Balbach said, in the past, her tendency was to speed up when things weren’t going well on the mound.

“I just have to take a deep breath and calm myself down,” she said.

Balbach said she found out about GVSU when former coach Doug ‘Doc’ Woods saw her play in a tournament. After that, she took a visit to Allendale and fell in love with GVSU. She hasn’t forgotten about where she came from, though, which is about 250 miles away in McCordsville, Ind.

She originally got into softball because her sister played, and she wanted to follow in her footsteps. Additionally, Balbach credits her on-field success to her parents.

“They always supported me,” she said. “My mom was always there to support me and my dad was there to push me.”

Balbach and the Lakers return to action Sunday to compete in their first of 12 games scheduled over spring break in Clermont, Fla. GVSU (4-1, 0-0 GLIAC) begins the stretch with a doubleheader against the University of Mary (N.D.).