Lakers set for 11 games in 8 days

GVL Archive / Andrew Mills
Baseball head coach Steve Lyon talk to his players during Spring training

GVL Archive / Andrew Mills Baseball head coach Steve Lyon talk to his players during Spring training

Greg Monahan

With plenty of students leaving school for a week to seek out winter havens, the Grand Valley State University baseball team will travel to one as well – Winter Haven, Fla.

As spring beckons in Allendale, the Lakers will head south for more inviting temperatures with a chance to step into the sun and play outdoor baseball after practicing under a roof for most of the winter.

“Being able to get down there and see what grass looks like again will be exciting,” said senior infielder Cory Phillips. “Just getting outside and getting back to baseball season is exciting for all of us.”

GVSU (2-1), however, will not open its season in Florida as the Lakers got an early start to the season two weeks ago in Greenwood, S.C., during a three-game set at Lander University. GVSU head coach Steve Lyon said the team is ahead of where they are normally because of that trip.

“I think we ironed out a few things in our minds before the Florida trip when we went down to South Carolina,” he said. “It broke up our winter practices nicely and gave us a little better idea on a few guys.”

The challenges for the Lakers will transcend the opponents on the field as an 11-games-in-8-days schedule, including four doubleheaders with just one day off, will thrust GVSU into the gauntlet right from the first pitch.

As manager, Lyon said he will make sure to keep his pitchers’ arms healthy during the long trip.

“It’s about trying to get through it with our pitching staff intact and not overusing them this early in the season,” he said. “If one or two of our starters gets knocked out early, and we have to extend a bullpen guy then all of a sudden the next day, we don’t have as deep of a staff as we’d like.”

But after a winter spent toiling in Allendale, Phillips said he has no issue with the packed schedule in Florida.

“I like it this way, especially at the start of the year,” he said. “We know we’re going to get all those games in down there unless it rains, and obviously in Michigan, it’s always tough to get games in during the beginning of the year. So I think it’s good we play as many as we can down there.”

After an impressive showing from the GVSU starting pitchers in South Carolina – the staff gave up just three earned runs in 15 innings of work. Lyon said he expects the team’s lifeline to be the starters for the duration of the trip.

Two pitchers new to the Lakers’ lineup this season are expected to take on the mound. Transfer Christopher Whitney and red-shirt freshman Cody Westerhuis are expected to get at least one start in Florida, possibly two.

“The best thing that could happen for us is our starters give us quality starts,” Lyon said. “Then we can survive very well. But it just takes a couple of early exits from the starters, and then we’re scrambling around.”

The Lakers’ Florida schedule starts Thursday with a doubleheader against the University of Mary and Lewis University. First pitch is at 11 a.m., and the Lewis game is expected to start around 2:30 p.m.

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