Late rally propels GV baseball to win at Russmatt Invitational

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Brian Bloom , Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University baseball team traveled to Auburndale, Florida for the Russmatt Invitational on March 14-15. On Monday, the team beat Northern State University 2-0, but lost to Emery-Riddle University 1-0. On Tuesday, the team won a hard fought battle against division rival Wayne State University with a score of 7-4.

“Wayne State is scrappy and very good,” said coach Jaime Detillion. “I’m proud of our team for sticking in (the game); the guys competed hard. Figuring out ways to win games is a really good sign. We’ve got bright days ahead.”

After surrendering zero runs in the first inning of the game, senior shortstop Christian Faust found a hole in Wayne State’s defense, hitting an RBI single to score junior outfielder Spencer Nelson. The Warriors responded quickly, adding runs in the second inning and the fourth inning to turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead heading into the fifth. 

To start the seventh inning, the Warriors hitters started to unravel senior starting pitcher Mark Scannell. With two outs and a runner on first for Wayne State, senior second baseman Noah Miller uncorked a two-run home run to extend their lead to three runs. Scannell finished his day allowing seven hits and four earned runs, while striking out three Warriors over 6.2 innings of play.

“(When the offense is struggling), I try not to think about it,” Scannell said. “My job is to ensure that the other team doesn’t score. I trust the offense to score runs and they delivered at the end.”

Down 4-1 with only three innings left of play, the time for GVSU to mount a comeback was running out. However, the offense came alive in the seventh. Freshman infielder Jonas Gulbrandsen reached base on a fielder’s choice with runners on first and second, but an error by the Warriors’ defense allowed sophomore infielder Connor Schuman to touch the plate, making the score 4-2. 

After a base-on-balls by Nelson, sophomore outfielder Kyle Nott delivered, singling up the middle to score Gulbrandsen, making the deficit one run. GVSU wasn’t done, as Faust made a sacrifice bunt to score Nelson and tie the ball game. To round out the barrage of runs in the seventh, GVSU pulled off a double steal as Nott stole third and Faust stole second. A throwing error by Wayne State allowed Nott to advance to home, turning a three-run deficit into a one-run lead, 5-4, going into the eighth.

“The resolve of our team (sparked the rally),” Detillion said. “We kept grinding when things didn’t go our way and we believed in each other. We switched up the lineup and sometimes that’s enough to throw a team off. Our guys stepped up and everybody contributed.”

After holding the Warriors scoreless in the top half of the eighth inning, Nott added the insurance in the bottom half of the frame. With runners on second and third with two outs, Nott doubled down the infield line to score two runs, increasing the lead to 7-4. In the top half of the ninth, senior pitcher Nick Shaw retired the side in order, striking out two batters to close out the win 7-4. 

Senior pitcher Ben Thomas received the win, his second of the season, and Shaw got his second save of the young season, surrendering no runs and striking out three batters over 1.1 innings.

On offense, Nelson, Nott and Faust led the charge. Nelson finished 2-4 on the day, scoring three runs and drawing a walk. Nott finished 2-4 with a double, three RBIs and a walk. Faust finished 3-5 with two RBIs of his own. 

“My performance didn’t impact our success like other guys did,” Faust said. “Kyle Nott added insurance runs and other guys stepped up and came up huge for us.”

Rounding out the offense for the Lakers were Schuman, who finished 1-3 on the day, and freshman catcher Brendan Guciardo, who finished 1-1 in a pinch-hit situation.

“We feel confident in our ability to win every game,” Scannell said. “We feel great going into conference play.” 

The team traveled to Lebanon, Illinois for a four-game series with McKendree University on March 19-20. On Saturday they took the first two games of the series, 11-5 and 8-7.

“(To prepare for this weekend) we need more consistent reps in batting practice; getting good swings in is step one,” Detillion said. “Being able to hit outside is way different than a batting cage. Getting quality work on our field pays dividends.”