OFF TO A GOOD START

Pitching staff guides GV to 15-2 record to begin season

By Greg Monahan | 3/30/11 9:31pm

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Courtesy Photo / gvsulakers.com
Senior infielder Cory Phillips throws to a base during a past game


It is said in baseball that good pitching stops good hitting. That is exactly the case for the Grand Valley State University pitching staff, which has lead the team to 15 wins in its first 17 games.

The Lakers have won nine straight and haven’t lost since March 5, and it’s been a combination of the team’s starters and bullpen that have lead the team thus far this season. During the nine-game streak, GVSU has given up just 24 runs while scoring 65.

Nine of the 11 pitches on the Laker staff have already recorded at least one win, as both the starting rotation and bullpen have shut down opponents.

“I knew the top end of our pitching staff was going to be pretty good, but I think the surprise we’ve had so far this season is the depth on the roster,” said GVSU head coach Steve Lyon. “Overall they’ve thrown really well, and I’d like to think we can keep it up.”

As an entire unit, Laker pitchers are 15-2 with a 2.55 team ERA. The staff has only given up four home runs in 134 innings of work, which Lyon said is even more impressive than it looks considering college baseball is played with aluminum bats.

“In college baseball, with the metal bats, to have an ERA like that is pretty amazing,” Lyon said. “Hopefully we can talk the same way when we’ve played 55 games, but so far so good.”

Consistency has keyed the Laker staff’s success thus far. Through 17 games, GVSU has only once given up more than five runs and has given up three runs or less in 11 contests.

“As long as you can pick away at the zone, you don’t have to throw hard to be successful,” said sophomore reliever Brad Zambron, who has a 2.13 ERA and two saves on the season. “We’re keeping the ball down really well, and a lot of guys are locating their off-speed pitches better than last year.”

While the team is giving up a little more than 2.5 runs per game, the offense is scoring more than 6.5 per game. With a high-powered offense behind him, junior righthander Kyle Schepel said the team will be able to go a long way as long as the pitching staff continues to keep the runs off the board.

“It’s early in the year, I know, but if we can keep (the team ERA) right around three, we will be set,” said Schepel, who is tied for the team lead with three wins. “It’ll be tough to keep going, because we have some pretty good opponents coming up. If we keep pitching the way we have been, I don’t see any reason why we can’t keep it up.”

Schepel has been the brightest spot on an already-shining staff, as the starter is 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA and is holding opposing batters to a .146 batting average. His ability to mix his changeup and curveball with an overpowering fastball has made him seem unhittable at times.

“There isn’t much that phases him,” Lyon said. “He is probably our one true power pitcher. He throws harder than some of our other starters, he can get his fastball located and he has good movement on it, so he doesn’t have to rely too much on his off-speed pitches, although his off-speed stuff is also pretty good, too.”

As the team prepares to take on conference rival Ashland University this weekend, a weekend sweep would move the win streak to 13 and set the team up for its home opener against Hillsdale College Tuesday.

“Every series is big,” Schepel said. “But we know Ashland and they know us, and rivalry games are always fun games. If we can come away with some wins, maybe sweep the weekend, that will set us up really well for the rest of the year in the GLIAC.”

First pitch of Saturday’s doubleheader against Ashland is on Saturday at 1 p.m. The two teams will square off in another twin-bill on Sunday, with a noon start time.
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