Wayne State sweeps GVSU

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Chelsea Horvath

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Chelsea Horvath

Alex Eisen

Great pitching always wins out. Wayne State’s junior ace Lyndsay Butler was more than just great against the Grand Valley State softball team on March 29.

“She was on,” said GVSU head coach Dana Callihan. “We have beat her before and she wasn’t going to let that happen again. She threw very, very well and you could just see the determination on her face.”

At the hands of Butler and the No. 18 WSU Warriors (27-4, 6-0 GLIAC), the Lakers (18-6, 3-3 GLIAC) lost a pair of conference games to their rivals by scores of 4-0 and 8-1.

Butler, the GLIAC Pitcher of the Year in 2014 and 2015, baffled GVSU at the plate in both games of the doubleheader. In game one, she pitched a one-hit shutout and struck out 12 batters. In game two, she had a perfect game bid going for 3.2 innings.

“You could definitely tell while she was out there that she was on her A-game,” Callihan said. “She is getting run support this year that she hasn’t gotten in the past, and that’s just building her confidence.”

Sophomore Courtney Reinhold stepped into the circle for GVSU in the first contest to square off against Butler. Reinhold settled in to pitch three scoreless innings after the Warriors took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning.

WSU added insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth on a leadoff home run by Kylee Barrett and a two-run blast from the do-it-all Butler.

The Lakers’ lone hit in the opening game was a double from freshman Rachel Terwilliger in the top of the second inning. GVSU reached base on three other occasions off a walk and two muffed throws, but no one advanced further than second base.

“(Butler) had a really good drop ball that was tricking us a lot,” Terwilliger said. “We would see it drop, but we couldn’t make the adjustments fast enough. Also, she had a lot of speed. Her presence on the mound was strong and she stood up there with a lot of confidence.

“Overall, she knows her talents and works what she has.”

The Warriors needed an extra inning to figure out GVSU senior Sara Andrasik in the rematch a half hour later. But, when they did, a three-run second inning ensued, and Butler needed no more help.

WSU, however, didn’t let up. Junior Ellie Balbach relieved Andrasik after 2.1 innings and the Warriors scored three more runs before the Lakers could get out of the third inning.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, 10 outs away from a Butler perfect game (or perhaps even sooner had WSU been able to impose the eight-run lead mercy rule), the Lakers not only got their first hit of the game, but they finally scored.

Junior Jenna Lenza doubled to left center on a 2-2 count and then crossed home plate immediately after on a first-pitch swinging RBI single from Balbach.

“It’s frustrating to get 12 strikeouts in a game,” Balbach said. “But, I think we hit (Butler) better in the second game, so that at least shows that we came back and kept fighting.”

Balbach left the bases loaded with Warriors in the top of the sixth inning to barely avoid the mercy rule. Yet Butler, inconceivably, still wasn’t done stamping her authority on the series, as she hit another two-run home run in the top of the seventh to give WSU an 8-1 lead.

Butler’s final pitching line over two complete games shows exactly how dominate she was: 185 pitches, five hits, one earned run, one walk and 20 strikeouts. That includes only one flyout and 21 groundouts. If that wasn’t enough, Butler went 5-for-8 with the bat and collected five RBIs.

“Between Wayne (State) and Grand Valley there is a rivalry there and we knew heading in we were going to see (Butler) both games,” Callihan said. “So, we just wanted to make contact and get the good pitches to hit, and we didn’t necessarily do that.”

Unexpected and rather unusual, all 24 games played so far this season for the Lakers have been on the road or at a neutral site. GVSU’s home opener was scheduled for March 16 against Aquinas, but was canceled due to the weather conditions.

The Lakers’ road game against Notre Dame College on March 31 was also canceled due to weather. GVSU will next hit the diamond in its home-opener doubleheader against Ferris State on April 3.