Lakers bow out of Midwest Regional Tournament with shutout loss to Ashland

GVL / Eric Coulter
Hannah Santora throws a pitch

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Hannah Santora throws a pitch

Zach Sepanik

Even with 45 wins this season, the sixth-highest in Grand Valley State University softball history, the No. 19 Lakers did not have enough to continue a postseason run as their hopes of a national championship were dashed by Ashland University on Saturday.

The two teams met in the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination NCAA Midwest Region Tournament, hosted by GVSU. Junior Hannah Santora provided a solid effort in leading the Lakers, scattering seven hits and giving up three earned runs. But Emlyn Knerem, the GLIAC Pitcher of the Year, was dominant in striking out 12 and only surrendering three hits as Ashland prevailed, 3-0.

“Our region is very tough,” said GVSU head coach Doug Woods. “We played St. Joe and it was their first time in regional play. They were sky high. And then against Ashland, their pitcher, basically she just overpowered us. She pitched very well.”

For both teams, it was a long road to travel just to face one another.

The No. 3-seeded Ashland Eagles started off well with a 2-1 victory against No. 6 Bellarmine University on Friday. After the win, Ashland dropped its opening game on Saturday to Saint Joseph’s University, 1-0.

Meanwhile, GVSU lost to St. Joseph’s 4-1 on Friday to drop them in an early hole.

Sophomore first baseman Tonya Calkins led the stagnant offense with two hits and sophomore shortstop Briauna Taylor had one hit and knocked in a run. Meanwhile, Santora went the distance, but took the loss on the mound while striking out five and allowing two runs.

“A lot of our downfall was that we just didn’t hit,” said junior second baseman Kayleigh Bertram. “The first game we played we only managed five hits and you can’t win just by pushing one run across. We would get a hit, but we couldn’t string anything together. We didn’t bounce back as well as we could have.”

In order to continue their season, the Lakers were faced with their first must-win game of the tournament in their opener on Saturday against Bellarmine.

With senior pitcher Andrea Nicholson out for the season, Santora again took the mound for GVSU. She earned her 24th win of the season, striking out nine in the 5-4 victory, only giving up five hits and two earned runs.

The offense was jumpstarted thanks to a three-run homer from junior designated player Katie Martin. It was one of her two hits, as she also scored two runs.

“It was tough,” Santora said. “Every time I go out there I just try my hardest. I know they are right behind me with defense so I am not really worried about that. It was a big loss for us with Andrea because it would have been me and her rotating, but I have to step up for my team.”

With the loss to Ashland, the game marked the final hurrah in the collegiate careers of Nicholson and fellow seniors Becky Gill, Maggie Kerrigan and Carli Raisutis.

“I loved being here,” Kerrigan said. “I would have never picked another school. I am so happy with Doc, he is a great coach. It really has taught me a lot, just being a student-athlete in general, coming here and playing for a very competitive Division II team.”

[email protected]