GVSU sweeps Malone, Walsh

GVL / Luke Holmes - McKenze Supernaw (3) makes contact with the ball. Grand Valley Womens Softball won 9-5 in their first game against Lake Superior State.

GVL / Luke Holmes – McKenze Supernaw (3) makes contact with the ball. Grand Valley Women’s Softball won 9-5 in their first game against Lake Superior State.

Alex Eisen

The Grand Valley State softball team is a freight train that can’t be stopped with its final destination—the postseason—closing in.

The Lakers (34-8, 19-5 GLIAC) extended their winning streak to 11 games by sweeping doubleheaders against Malone and Walsh on April 22 and 23.

Starting pitchers Sara Andrasik and Courtney Reinhold commanded the circle against Malone (13-28, 3-22 GLIAC) to begin the final weekend of the regular season as the duo both tossed complete game three-hitters to led GVSU to 5-0 and 6-1 victories.

On Senior Day against Walsh (18-29, 9-17 GLIAC), senior Andrasik had another solid outing to win game one, 5-1. In the 7-3 nightcap victory, senior McKenze Supernaw smacked her team-leading sixth home run of the season and kept a promise she made to her grandpa in the process.

“I dedicated the home run to my grandpa because he wasn’t able to come today,” Supernaw said. “He was really bummed that he wasn’t able to, but I told him I would hit a home run for him. So, it meant a lot.”

Andrasik didn’t waste any time exerting her dominance against Malone in Friday’s first game, throwing just six pitches to get through the opening frame. Her counterpart competitor toeing the rubber for Malone, Kari Hall, needed 55 pitches to make it through the bottom half of the first inning.

The Lakers scored in the first inning of all four games and improved their record to 29-1 when they light up the scoreboard first.

“We like scoring first,” said GVSU head coach Dana Callihan. “It really sets the tone for the rest of the game. It gives confidence to your pitchers and then you just got to keep adding on.”

Junior Janae Langs led off with a standup triple and was driven in on RBI single from sophomore Kaylie Rhynard. GVSU then methodically pushed the lead to 4-0.

With the bases loaded, the Lakers added runs on a Shannon Flaherty 3-2 count walk, a bloop RBI single by Kelsey Dominguez that dropped in shallow center field and Teagan Shomin did what hardly comes as a surprise to anyone anymore.

The GVSU career leader in hit by pitches (29) crowded the plate, and another pitch ricocheted off her to score the Lakers’ fourth run.

Flaherty showed more tenacity in the top of third inning as she launched a deep, solo home run over the cameraman stationed in left-center.

Circling back to the superb pitching, Andrasik lost her perfect game bid with two outs in the top of the fourth. She completed the 5-0 shutout striking out seven batters and not allowing a walk.

“We are on a roll right now,” Andrasik said. “We just got to keep it going. Not really change anything, but just keep playing hard.”

Game two was more of the same, although things did get a little precarious near the end of the contest.

GVSU got off to its fast start as Supernaw doubled down the left field line to plate two runs in the first inning.

The Lakers tacked on a couple more runs later with a groundout RBI from Langs in the second inning and an RBI single by Flaherty in the fifth.

More breathtaking, however, were the back-to-back web gems in the bottom of the fifth. Rhynard caught a foul ball while leaning against the backstop netting, and Supernaw performed a circus act at first base as she made a juggling catch off a hard line drive.

The entertainment value only increased from there, even though GVSU closed out the contest convincingly, 6-1, to sweep the two-game series.

In the bottom of the sixth, the home plate umpire issued a rare and rather unexpected warning after Reinhold plunked a Malone batter on a 1-1 count.

The hit by pitch was perceived as retaliation because the Pioneer player, in her previous at-bat, lunged to reach first base on an infield grounder and caught the heel on Supernaw, which went unnoticed by most in attendance.

The warning caused by what looked to be an unintentional off-target throw by Reinhold was magnified in the top of the seventh when Lakers’ leadoff hitter Langs was drilled on the first pitch of the inning.

Yet, despite the home crowd jeers, nothing transpired as Langs respectfully took her free base and no more drama ensued.

While emotions didn’t overcome the Lakers in that moment, different emotions did the next day as GVSU recognized Andrasik, Supernaw and Chelsea Horvath on Senior Day.

Andrasik threw an even 100 pitches, allowed one run on six hits to earn her 12th win of the season.

“It means everything,” Andrasik said about winning on Senior Day. “It means a lot for us – the three seniors – to get these two big wins today. We’ve had a lot of time together on this field, so going out strong is always really important.”

The multi-sport speedsters at the top of lineup, Langs (basketball) and Rhynard (cross country), both went 3-for-4 at the plate and scored four of the Lakers’ five runs in game one.

“Having that speed – especially when either one of us can get on (base) and swipe a bag every now and again – is a game-changer,” Rhynard said. “If you have a runner in scoring position with zero or one outs, it’s tough on them to keep us from scoring since our 3-4-5 hitters are very strong.”

Following the 5-1 victory in game one, junior Ellie Balbach went the distance in the circle in game two.

The Lakers slowly, but surely, built up a 3-0 lead for Balbach by scoring one run in each of the first three innings. Walsh responded with two runs on a double to left-center in the bottom of the fourth to draw back within a run.

Back-to-back doubles by Supernaw and Balbach, helping her own cause, to start in the next inning increased GVSU’s lead to 4-2. Supernaw then broke the game open in her next at-bat.

She pulled a full count pitch to left field that landed next to the scoreboard. The sentimental home run capped a 5-for-6, 5 RBI day for Supernaw.

The Lakers, as a team, scored 12 runs on 25 hits in the Senior Day doubleheader sweep and positioned themselves for a showdown with Hillsdale for second place in the conference.

“We want to go into (the) conference (tournament) on an uphill,” Rhynard said. “And we have been doing that so far, we are on a pretty good streak right now. So, getting two wins (against Hillsdale) would give us a lot of confidence going into the tournament. Plus, going in with the two seed would be helpful as well.”

GVSU hosts Hillsdale for the final home doubleheader of the regular season on April 24 starting at 1 p.m. The Lakers have to win both games in order to catapult over the Chargers (24-8, 19-5 GLIAC) for second place in the GLIAC standings.

The double-elimination conference tournament will be held next weekend in Findlay, Ohio.