Club baseball hopes to build on DI tournament win

Pat Bicanich

The true test of greatness is when a team can face down a challenge and come out on top.

The Grand Valley State University club baseball team was able to do just that at the Spartan Invitational this weekend.

The Lakers went 5-0 en route to winning the first ever Spartan Invitational in Battle Creek, Mich. As the only Division II team in the field, GVSU defeated Division I opponents Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University, Ohio University and Michigan State University.

However, the Lakers were challenged and had to work for their title.

GVSU trailed 7-2 going into the top of the seventh inning during its semifinal matchup with CMU. The Lakers proceeded to score seven runs to take a 9-7 lead, which they preserved in the bottom half of the inning.

“It definitely was a nail-biter in the semifinal,” pitcher and first basemen Ron Fancher said. “It really came down to sticking to the basics, manufacturing runs. We aren’t really a home-run ball team—just a bunch of base-hit guys all the way through our lineup. The speed of our team is incredible this year, and it was crucial in that game. It really shows that the resiliency of this team is incredible and that we never give up or back down from any challenge, no matter how insurmountable it may seem.”

The Lakers used the momentum from the semifinal thriller to defeat Michigan State University in a 10-inning battle.

Fancher tossed five shutout innings before being relieved by Karl Brecht, who surrendered two runs in two innings for GVSU.

Michael Michalski earned the win by pitching the last three innings, and he also had the game-winning RBI. In the bottom of the 10th, Michalski hit a two-out, walk-off triple scoring Christopher Zuby all the way from first base. Michalski’s heroics propelled GVSU to a 3-2 victory.

The Lakers said they were thrilled to win the tournament and thankful for the opportunity to showcase their talents against Division I competition.

“To win a tournament with a high level of competition means so much to us,” pitcher Marcus Gignac said. “Every single game was competitive, and we made a lot of clutch plays. To beat Division I teams just gives us a huge boost of confidence going into our conference schedule.”

Senior catcher and vice president Camron Moorehead has watched the club baseball program evolve from a dismal 0-15 season in its first year to a league record of 15-0 the very next year. He attributes the improvements to the increasing amount of talented players trying out for the team year in and year out.

“The club baseball program has grown immensely since the trial run of our first year,” Moorehead said. “The level of talent that has come out to tryouts the last two years shows that the club baseball program is still on the rise and gaining more acknowledgment every year.”

The Lakers have added a lot of depth to the pitching staff and no longer have to rely of their starters to pitch deep into ballgames. However, defense will be a point of emphasis to eliminate some of the costly errors that they have already encountered this season.

“We’re really happy about how deep our bullpen is this year,” Fancher said. “Last year us starters were relied on heavily to go deep into the game or even go complete games, but now we have a sense of relief that we know we have plenty of quality support behind us. Improvements that we want to see are to lock down our defense and eliminate errors that have almost cost us key games already this fall.”

GVSU will travel to Saginaw Valley State University on Oct. 12 for a three-game set. This series has some extra significance for the Lakers, and they are confident that they will have success if they stick to their game.

“We are traveling to SVSU to take part in our Battle of The Valleys,” Gignac said. “Obviously, them, Ferris and Central are our biggest rivals, but beating SVSU means something more. It is important for us to beat them because one of our goals is to win our conference, and they are the first step to get there. As long as we go out there and play our game, we should come out of there with three victories.”