GVSU softball brings win streak to double digits with wins over Aquinas

GVL / Kevin Sielaff –  Kelsey Dominguez (2) takes a swing and makes solid contact with the ball. Grand Valley takes the victory over Walsh in both games held in Allendale on Saturday, April 23, 2016.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Kelsey Dominguez (2) takes a swing and makes solid contact with the ball. Grand Valley takes the victory over Walsh in both games held in Allendale on Saturday, April 23, 2016.

Beau Troutman

It was only the bottom of the fifth inning. Freshman Kayla Plastiak stepped up the plate with two runners on base and a 5-0 Grand Valley State lead over the Aquinas Saints. Plastiak chopped through the ball like the stroke of an axe, sending the ball over the left centerfield fence.

Unbeknownst to her, that ended the game—8-0 by mercy rule.

“I didn’t even know it was gone, to be honest,” Plastiak said. “I started getting really close to (junior catcher Jessica Ramos) and I was like, ‘What just happened?’”

That clinched GVSU softball’s 11th win in a row, in a streak that started Sunday, April 2. The 8-0 win over Aquinas was preceded by a 2-0 win in game one of a doubleheader the Lakers played with the Saints at home Tuesday, April 18.

During the 11-game win streak, the Lakers have pitched seven shutouts and allowed just 10 runs. The last two times the Lakers notched double-digit win streaks in a season (2016 and 2013), they advanced to the College World Series.

The streak comes after the Lakers (23-15, 9-5 GLIAC) had an uncharacteristic start to the season. After losing only 13 games all of last season, this year’s team had 13 losses just one month in. The Lakers said to get back to their winning ways, they first had to remember how to have fun playing softball.

It looks like they figured it out.

“I would say that we’re feeling pretty good,” Plastiak said. “Obviously at the beginning of the year we started on a low. But as soon as we hit our high point, we just started riding it out, so I’d say we’re feeling perfect to be honest.”

The first NCAA Division II Regional rankings came out Wednesday, April 19, in which the Lakers were ranked ninth. The top eight teams at the end of the regular season advance to regionals.

Game one of the doubleheader with Aquinas was uneventful through the first five innings. The teams had only combined for five hits, and only one player had advanced past second base up until that point—senior Jenna Lenza advanced to second after senior Ellie Balbach was hit by a pitch.

Enter the bottom of the sixth. Senior Janae Langs was hit by a pitch, sophomore Teagan Shomin singled, and then sophomore Shannon Flaherty landed a perfect sac-bunt to advance the runners to second and third.

That set up senior Kelsey Dominquez, who cracked a double down the left field line to score both runners for a 2-0 GVSU lead and the first runs of the day. The Saints were able to get out of the inning without further damage.

Sophomore ace Allison Lipovsky had been perfect through the first six innings, and she would be perfect again in the seventh. She recorded three straight strikeouts—all of which were on swinging strikes—to end the game. Lipovsky ended the game with just two hits allowed, 10 strikeouts and no walks.

Asked if she thought she did well, Lipovsky was completely honest.

“Overall, no,” she said. “I think that I made a couple mistakes, but I made adjustments going into different at-bats. I think that as the week progresses I’m going to be working on everything.”

GVSU coach Dana Callihan said Aquinas’s approach at the plate lent itself to Lipovsky’s lights out performance.

“She’s been really consistent on not getting in trouble in the count, getting ahead of the batters,” Callihan said. “Aquinas, they were free swingers, so that helps a little bit because the ball does move and she’s got the pop on the ball. When they go up there swinging, it’s going to work to her advantage.”

Lipovsky (10-3) has been named GLIAC Pitcher of the Week for the three straight weeks and has struck out 10-plus batters in each of her last four starts.

In game two, Plastiak’s three-run home run capped off an easy win for the Lakers. The Lakers outhit the Saints 12-3 as a team. Ramos went 1-for-2 with two RBIs. Freshman Kelcie LaTour, Balbach and Flaherty each added an RBI. Lenza recorded her 20th double of the season. She is two away from tying the GLIAC record for a single season.

Junior pitcher Allie Grys (5-1) pitched all five innings, allowing three hits and recording one strikeout.

For the rest of the season, the Lakers have three home doubleheaders left with Lake Erie (Saturday, April 22), Walsh (Sunday, April 23) and Ferris State (Friday, April 28). They close out the regular season on the road at Saginaw Valley State Sunday, April 30, for a make-up doubleheader after it was originally postponed due to weather.

The Lakers plan to continue just having fun.

“Everybody’s pulling their share,” Callihan said. “They’re hanging in there from a mental standpoint and that’s big. They’re not giving up on themselves if they get down in the count or if something bad happens. We’re bouncing back.

“That’s what we expected all along.”