Preview: GVSU baseball to face GLIAC foe Tiffin in home-opener series

GVL / Luke Holmes - Austin LaDoux (24) swings at the ball. GVSU Men’s Baseball played a double-header against Tiffin University on Saturday, April 1, 2016.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Austin LaDoux (24) swings at the ball. GVSU Men’s Baseball played a double-header against Tiffin University on Saturday, April 1, 2016.

Robbie Triano

Whether you think it’s warm enough or not, it’s officially baseball season. 

Although the Grand Valley State baseball team is already 23 games into its season, the Lakers (13-10 overall, 2-2 GLIAC) will finally hold their home opener against the Tiffin Dragons (8-10 overall, 2-2 GLIAC) in the first game of a doubleheader on Thursday, March 29. GVSU will also play another doubleheader against Tiffin on Friday, March 30, starting at 1 p.m.

The original schedule had the Lakers playing Friday through Sunday, but poor weather predictions forced the coaching staff to move the four games to doubleheaders on Thursday and Friday.

For a team that has been patiently awaiting its home opener, the Lakers have only been able to practice outside on their own field four times this season. For GVSU head coach Jamie Detillion, he’s more than ready to say his farewells to the lingering winter weather.

“I sometimes will look down and realize I have around seven layers on and ask myself, ‘What am I doing on a baseball field?’” Detillion said. “It’s been so cold that nobody can really hit or even want to be out there to hit. It’s been a headache trying to act out the duties of a weatherman to decide when to play these home games.”

These contests against GLIAC rival Tiffin will be their only meetings of the regular season. While Tiffin currently has one of the worst overall records in the conference, the GLIAC has just become a more even playing field, according to Detillion.

“With a bunch of teams leaving to GLIAC to the GMAC, it’s going to be a pretty competitive league this year,” Detillion said. “It used to be really top heavy, but now teams that haven’t been traditionally dominating are climbing up to the top. 

“It’s going to be a dog fight.” 

Even with limited practices, the Laker bats have been promising. Collectively, the Lakers are hitting a combined .299 batting average, along with 224 total hits—enough for third in the GLIAC. 

Leading the hitting brigade have been the Lakers’ three and four hitters in the batting order in first baseman Ryan Blake-Jones and right fielder Jacob Gleason. Blake-Jones is currently leading the GLIAC in RBIs (28), fourth in batting average (.420), and leading the Lakers in hits (35) and home runs (4). Gleason is not far off, sitting in second in the GLIAC in RBIs (24), eighth in batting average (.391) and batting a team high in slugging percentage (.609).

“For the most part they’ve been pretty steady,” Detillion said. “They really bring some offensive upside with speed and overall hitting ability. But most importantly, they do a great job spreading the ball over diamond when they hit, which the best hitters in the world need to be able to do.”

On the pitching side, senior right-handed pitcher Ryan Arnold has been nearly perfect this season. Currently posting a 4-0 record in five starts and a 2.76 ERA—currently fourth in the GLIAC—Arnold has earned the spot as GVSU’s No. 1 pitcher in the rotation. The 6-foot-4-inch pitcher transferred to GVSU last season from Lincoln Land Community College. Since then, he’s been a pleasant surprise for coach Detillion.

“He finished last year really strong, and his pitching has just continued to remain at that same level,” he said. “He’s a smart pitcher and know how to work his hitters. He really has a lot going for him right now.”

Although the Lakers are getting their big bats and ace in rhythm early, it’s been a process to find the true identity of what Detillion wants from his team.

“It’s a matter of gaining some consistency,” Detillion said. “It feels like this time of year we’re just trying to figure out who we are before the postseason tournaments. It’s been a hard process to see who we are, mainly because we’ve only had a handful of outdoor practices. 

“The consistency factor comes out when we can get out of a batting cage and onto the baseball diamond. We have some great depth with our pitching and lineup. We just need some guys to click.”