Lakers bring it home with a winning streak

Senior infielder Cory Phillips connects with the ball during Tuesdays matchup against Hillsdale

Eric Coulter

Senior infielder Cory Phillips connects with the ball during Tuesday’s matchup against Hillsdale

Greg Monahan

It is baseball season again in Allendale, and the Grand Valley State University Lakers continued their month-long tear with a sweep of Hillsdale College in the team’s home opener Tuesday.

The two wins for GVSU probably could not have been any different as the Lakers put up 22 runs – including 12 in the first inning – in a 22-0 drubbing to open the doubleheader. The Chargers, however, showed up to play in the second game when they jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Lakers stormed back and capped off the sweep with a 4-2 win.

The team now has a 9-0 GLIAC record and a 14-game winning streak — GVSU has not lost since March 5.

“We’ve worked months for this,” said junior catcher Jared Cowan. “But actually coming out here and doing it is a completely different thing. I wasn’t expecting this. It’s not easy, but I’m happy with where we are right now.”

The 22 runs in the opener were the most for the program since a 25-15 win on April 29, 2007 against the University of Findlay. In the team’s 12-run first inning, all nine batters reached base and eight scored before the Chargers were able to record an out. Hillsdale starter Matthew Reck was yanked after just one-third of an inning and 10 earned runs.

Junior Christopher Whitney, a transfer from Kellogg Community College, got the start on the mound for the Lakers. Despite having a double-digit lead by the time he got on the hill in the second inning, he was able to keep focus and throw a three-hit shutout.

“You can’t really think about (the lead) too much,” said Whitney, who struck out six and walked just one in his first start at Laker Field. “You just have to go out and attack it like it was a close ball game. Just throw strikes and be aggressive. That’s all.”

The second game was not as easy for GVSU, which fell behind 2-0 in the second inning after a couple of walks, an error and a double steal, giving the Chargers a two-run lead without even recording a hit.

But the Lakers came back with three runs of their own in the next frame, and freshman Bill Maple allowed just one hit and no earned runs in five innings of work in his first collegiate start to improve his record to 3-0.

Despite the offensive surge in the first game, GVSU head coach Steve Lyon was admittedly a bit nervous after his team fell behind early in the latter half of the doubleheader.

“I’m sitting there thinking, ’22 runs in the first game – are we even going to score this game?’” he said. “But we were fortunate to get enough runs to win that one, too.”

Pitching yet again led the way for the Lakers as the staff did not give up an earned run in the doubleheader. In the last 28 innings (four games) of work, GVSU pitchers have allowed a total of just 10 hits and one earned run.

Cowan, who has been behind the plate for two of those four contests, said it has been a combination of preparation off the mound and control that has been key.

“A lot of our pitchers are hitting their spots. They’re not going out there and just throwing,” he said. “There’s a game plan behind it, so they’re getting up there, concentrating, working really hard – and it’s paid off for them.”

In the midst of a month-long winning streak, Cowan said the team is feeling good but hasn’t grown too full of itself.

“We don’t feel unbeatable, but I do think we have a good sense of confidence,” he said. “If we come out here and play our game, we can beat anyone. I think we saw that last week against Ashland (University). When all of us are rolling, our team can put up a lot of runs.”

GVSU is home again this weekend for a couple of doubleheaders against Saginaw Valley State University. First pitch on Saturday is at 1 p.m., and the second twinbill will begin at noon the following day.

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