Offense leads Lakers to 11-1 start

Stephanie Deible

A season ago, the Grand Valley State University softball team belted an NCAA-leading 76 home runs, but as they open their opened their 2012 season, the Lakers proved they can win games without the long ball.

In its first 12 days of competition, GVSU (11-1) out-hit its opponents 124-55 with only four of those hits resulting in home runs.

The Lakers won in dominating fashion with 15-1 and 10-1 victories over University of Minnesota Crookston (0-7) and University of New Haven University (0-2), respectively. However, GVSU also snatched two come-from-behind efforts, knocking off Wayne State College Nebraska (7-3) by a score of 3-2 and Northern State University (7-9) by a score of 7-5.

“We had a very good hitting team from last year and we have everyone back so I think it’s carrying over into this year,” said GVSU head coach Doug Woods. “They have that confidence that if we get down by one or two runs… we’ve got a great chance of coming back.”

In 2011, GVSU advanced to NCAA Division II Super Regionals and compiled a record of 46-11. With its entire roster returning, junior Katie Martin said expectations are high for 2012.

Martin, the 2011 Daktronics National Player of the Year, and 2011 GLIAC Freshman of the Year Miranda Cleary will look to lead the way for the Lakers.

Martin, who sees time as the designated player and is a pitcher for the Lakers, led the team with .468 batting average, 20 home runs and 65 RBI last season. Cleary, a third baseman, returns for her second season with GVSU after racking up 59 hits and 19 home runs as a freshman.

Although the duo has the ability to trot around the bases, the Lakers roster features 12 returning players who hit .300 or better last season.

“It’s great everyone on our team can hit because if there is one good player on a team you can pitch around d them,” Martin said. “With our team you can’t pitch around anyone because the next person is just as likely to hit a home run as the last person.”

Throughout the spring break trip to Florida, junior outfielder Nellie Kosola led the team with 22 hits while sophomore shortstop Briauna Taylor led GVSU with three home runs.

“Nellie is our lead-off and Briauna is our second hitter and the two of them, for the weekend, hit over .500,” Woods said. “When you have people on base right at the beginning of your batting order, it gives you a great chance to score some runs.”

Offensive firepower aside, the GVSU pitching staff showed they can also turn in dominating performances. Collectively, the four pitchers through three shutouts and combined for 11 wins.

Senior pitcher Andrea Nicholson said all four pitchers had solid first outings and she expects that the depth within the pitching staff will help the Lakers keep opponents at bay this season.

The lone loss on GVSU’s record came in a 1-0 decision to Kutztown University (11-1). The Lakers mustered four more hits than the Golden Bears, but could not pull off a victory.

“Kutztown is a very good team,” Woods said. “We played them last year and we beat them in extra innings. They played very well; we had six hits and just couldn’t punch them together. Early in year, it’s good to see we can play good teams, can stay close and have a good chance at winning.”

The Lakers will open up the home portion of their schedule on Tuesday against St. Joesph College with a double header slated to begin at 3 p.m.