GVSU baseball crowned GLIAC champions

GVL / Luke Holmes - Alex Young (12) watches after hitting the ball. Grand Valley Men’s Baseball lost to Walsh college 3-4 in the first game but won 15-8 in the second game.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Alex Young (12) watches after hitting the ball. Grand Valley Men’s Baseball lost to Walsh college 3-4 in the first game but won 15-8 in the second game.

Josh Peick

The Grand Valley State baseball team entered the GLIAC Tournament as the top team in the conference. The Lakers finished Sunday night in the same position.

The Lakers won the GLIAC Championship game in a thrilling 6-5 victory over Walsh on May 15 in Xenia, Ohio. GVSU rattled off three straight wins after a loss in the second round of the double-elimination tournament.

After taking care of business in the first round with a 5-3 win over Hillsdale on May 12, the Lakers stumbled in the second round with a 12-5 loss to Malone. It was after the second day of the tournament where the Lakers had to find a spark if they wanted to make it to the championship game.

GVSU found that spark and swept the double header on the third day of the tournament, beating Wayne State 9-8 and Walsh 4-0.

“It was really a true test of character for our guys,” said GVSU head coach Jamie Detillion. “They battled, and when our team needed to perform the most, we got it out of a good handful of guys, not just one or two guys.”

The championship game was a rematch of the Saturday afternoon game against Walsh. The Lakers opened up the scoring with an RBI single by Josh Griffith in the second inning. Griffith scored later in the inning on a Johnny Nate RBI single.

In the next frame, GVSU pitcher Sawyer Chambers was roughed up by Walsh. He allowed three runs in the inning before Tim Tarter replaced him on the mound. Tarter proceeded to retire nine straight Walsh batters over the next three innings.

The Lakers responded with another two-run inning in the fourth, thanks to a Griffith two RBI home run over the left field wall.

“They have been trying to bust me inside with fastballs. I was just looking for a pitch out over the plate and that’s what I got on the home run,” Griffith said. “The other at-bats I was trying not to do too much, just looking for a hittable pitch.”

After adding another run in the fifth inning, the Lakers took a 5-3 lead heading into the seventh. Walsh’s offense responded again with two RBI triples in the frame to tie the game at five runs apiece.

The Lakers’ offense was called upon again to drive in a run for the lead, and the offense did just that. GVSU scored in the bottom half of the eighth inning on a single from Griffith and an error by Walsh’s center fielder.

“We had been hitting a lot of fly balls lately, taking ourselves out of at-bats, but we did a really good job of not trying to do too much as the tournament went along,” Griffith said. “We hit a lot of hard line drives this weekend and took what the other teams were giving us.”

The Lakers brought in closer Matt Williams to finish the game. Williams gave up a single and a walk but forced a line out to the left fielder to end the game. The save was Williams’ 20th of the season, tying the Division II all-time record.

The win gives GVSU its third straight GLIAC Tournament championship. Five Lakers were named to the GLIAC Baseball All-Tournament Team: Josh Smith, Anthony Villar, Josh Griffith, Matt Williams and Zach Anderson.

Next up for the Lakers is the NCAA Midwest Region Tournament. The winner of the tournament moves onto the NCAA DII World Series, and after a conference tournament championship, the Lakers have confidence and momentum on their side.

“If we can continue to play like we did (in the last three games), I think we have a good chance to compete,” Detillion said.