Lakers end regular season on 25-game winning streak
Not even Grand Valley State University head coach Steve Lyon could fathom his baseball team’s incredible 34-1 run through the GLIAC regular season.
“I’m a little amazed myself that we only lost three times all year, and then just once in the conference,” Lyon said after his team completed a four-game weekend sweep to close out the conference season on a 25-game winning streak. “It was a special regular season, and it’s not something that you can envision happening.”
And now, after the most dominating regular season in GVSU baseball history, the team heads into the postseason with a 45-3 record and a No. 2 ranking in the national polls.
The Lakers haven’t lost since April 9, and are winners in 38 of their last 39 games.
“We have a sense of confidence when we enter every single game that we’re going to win that game,” said junior infielder Cory Phillips. “It doesn’t matter if we’re down 5-0 after the first inning, everybody in the dugout knows that eventually we’re going to get those five runs and that we’re going to add a little more to it.”
One of the brightest spots in a season full of highlights has been the Lakers ability to pull out close games. Four of the team’s last six wins have been by one run, upping GVSU’s record in such games to 9-0.
“Honestly, I think we played pretty even keel, and when other teams are in those same situations in those close game I think they’re kind of intimidated,” said senior starting pitcher Joe Jablonski, “There’s been a couple where they’ve made some mistakes and kind of just gave us the game because we didn’t freak out and were staying confident the whole time.”
The Lakers have been able to make several late-inning comebacks throughout the season. GVSU is 7-2 in games where they were trailing after the fifth inning.
“It gets back to a real good, deep pitching staff and having a lot of guys in the lineup that enjoy getting in the batters box with the game on the line,” he said. It hasn’t been one or two guys, it’s been a lot of guys who have gotten clutch hits for us.”
With the regular season over, the Lakers now look forward to the GLIAC tournament, which will take place in Chillicothe, Ohio this weekend. The four teams in the tournament will be GVSU, Wayne State University, Ashland University, and Saginaw Valley State University.
The Lakers have a 10-1 record against those teams this year, with the only loss being a 6-1 defeat against Saginaw Valley, the team’s only conference loss of the year, on April 9.
The GLIAC tournament has a double-elimination format, which means GVSU’s opponents will have to beat the Lakers more times over the weekend than the team lost in-conference all season long.
But Jablonski said the team is not ready to celebrate anything yet.
“We still realize that any team can beat any other team on any day,” said Jablonski, who holds a 5-1 record with a 3.51 ERA on the season. “We need to be really focused because these are going to be the better teams in the conference … we need to limit our mistakes and we need to still play well, because nothing is ever guaranteed in baseball.”
Lyon added that, knowing the unpredictable nature of college baseball, his team might be the favorite to win, but is certainly not the only team that stands a chance.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if we got beat in the conference tournament, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we own three straight and won the tournament,” he said. “It could go either way.”
And though the team is rightful excited about a 34-1 conference season, the Lakers now see their season as just beginning.
“We realize the regular season is important, but the postseason is much more important,” said Jablonski. “We can’t think about what we’ve done, we need to think about what we still need to do, because falling short of the World Series would be a big disappointment.”