GVSU splits tough-weather series with Ashland

GVL / Emily Frye   
Sophomore Josh Smith makes a soild hit against Saginaw Valley State University on Saturday Mar. 26, 2016.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Sophomore Josh Smith makes a soild hit against Saginaw Valley State University on Saturday Mar. 26, 2016.

A.A. Knorr

The Grand Valley State baseball team battled uncharacteristic spring weather and the GLIAC-leading Ashland Eagles over the weekend, heading home with a series split after pulling out the win in a nail-biter on April 3.

The Lakers (13-9-1, 4-2-0 GLIAC) were slated to play four games against Ashland in two days, but weather canceled the second game of both doubleheaders. GVSU dropped the series-opener 4-2 on April 2, and fended off the Eagles for an 8-5 win on April 3.

(The Eagles) are a good team, so every time you beat a good team it’s a good day,” said GVSU head coach Jamie Detillion. “Of course we want to build off of it and build into our conference schedule with good momentum.”

Senior Josh Griffith (1-2) started the first game for the Lakers, but the Eagles layed seven hits and four runs on Griffith in 5.1 innings of work. GVSU’s defense was not kind to its pitchers, as the Lakers committed three errors in the game, though just one Ashland run was unearned.

Ashland countered Griffith with its staff ace, Brandyn Sittinger (4-0). Sittinger stifled the Lakers’ bats over 6.1 innings, allowing just three hits, but issued five walks on the day. GVSU managed to pin two runs on Sittinger—both in the first inning— as Seth Johnson scored Alex Young on an RBI groundout and catcher Connor Glick scored designated hitter Matt Williams on a single to center field.

GVSU knocked two hits in the first inning, and just two more over the final six frames.

“It was a cold, windy day,” Detillion said. “There weren’t a whole lot of hits, their pitcher had thrown pretty well. It’s tough when we can’t rely on perfection defensively.”

The Eagles cut GVSU’s lead to 2-1 on a solo home run by freshman J.P. Sorma, and tacked three more runs on in the sixth inning, eventually earning the 4-2 victory.

A day later, the Lakers handed Ashland its first GLIAC loss of the season, thanks to two explosive offensive innings. Both teams hung 13 hits on the board, but GVSU’s timely hitting and execution was key, as the Lakers scored five runs in the fourth inning and three in the fifth to propel themselves to an 8-5 victory.

“It definitely feels good,” Johnson said. “It makes us realize that we’re up at the top of the conference and no matter who we’re playing in the conference, we have a chance at winning a baseball game.”

In a reverse of the first game of the series, Ashland scored two runs in the first inning, aided by a pair of extra-base hits. Kyle Lawson (5-1) took the hill for GVSU, and despite the rocky first inning, settled down to complete 5.1 innings of three-run ball.

The Lakers busted onto the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning. Glick knocked a two-run single to left field, scoring Anthony Villar and Jason Ribecky to tie the game at 2-2.

Then, GVSU decided to bunt.

Three times in a row, the Lakers laid down bunts, as Griffith, playing first base, dropped down a sacrifice to move Glick to second, then shortstop Josh Smith reached on a bunt single to set runners at the corners for GVSU.

The small ball continued as second baseman Johnny Nate safely bunted, scoring Glick and advancing Smith to second. Two batters later, Johnson ripped a triple to right center, plating Nate and Smith to give GVSU a 5-2 lead.

“We just saw some holes defensively where we thought we could have some success bunting,” Detillion said.

The Lakers added three more runs the next inning, as Griffith laced a two-run single, and Smith scored Glick on another bunt.

Ashland cut the Laker lead to 8-4 in the sixth inning on a home run and an RBI double. The Eagles tacked on another run in the eighth to move the tally to 8-5.

Laker closer Matt Williams came in to try to record a save in the bottom of the ninth, and, though Ashland loaded the bases, Williams got the final batter to fly out to right field to preserve the win. Williams struck out two in the inning, but one batter reached first following the strikeout due to a wild pitch.

“It was good to see us rebound,” Detillion said. “It’s been a rough weekend for weather but that’s northern baseball, so we got to overcome any obstacle. All in all, it’s good to bounce back after yesterday and hang on for a win.”

GVSU will return home on April 6 to host Lewis at 3 p.m.