GVSU softball wins Super Regional, advances to NCAA World Series
There are a hair under 300 Division II softball programs incorporated with the NCAA – only eight remain to play for the right to provide the 2013 season with their own distinctive ending.
For only the second time in school history, and the first time since 2002, Grand Valley State University will be one of those eight NCAA Division II World Series championship suitors with a pen in their hands, a compelling, albeit unfinished conclusion. A fairy tale conclusion is still in play between the foul poles.
After a 10-game tune-up spring trip to Florida, senior Katie Martin reflected with the Lanthorn upon her numerous career accomplishments and was asked to consider what else was left for her and her teammates, namely her fellow seniors, to accomplish. There wasn’t much left to take aim at, but Martin took a full swing.
“I just want to win a national championship and I think we have an excellent team,” Martin said in March. “I think we can go all the way. I think we’re all really excited to play right now and we have to keep that intensity through the entire season, especially during the postseason. We just have believe in each other and ourselves and we can get there.”
Fast forward 48 games, 42 of which GVSU had won, and all that remained between the Lakers and their ‘happily ever after’ opportunity was a Super Regional heavyweight bought with the No. 1 ranked and eerily familiar University of Indianapolis Greyhounds. Heading into the matchup, GVSU boasted the second highest winning percentage in Division II ranks (.875), Indianapolis the first (.898). Each program had only experienced defeat six times each in 2013 and yet, one would exit the weekend forced to stomach two additional and unaccustomed losses. A title fight billing was suitable, but in reality it was to be a staring contest of elite contenders, straining with all their might to avoid blinking.
“I tell you both teams (GVSU and Uindy) sort of mirrored each other,” said GVSU head coach Doc Woods. “Both (have) good pitching – they had a senior and a freshman, we had a senior and a freshman. Both very good hitting teams. They might have been a little quicker than us and I thought we might have had a little more power than them. Boy it was a great matchup. Some of the people afterwards said that was the best three games they’ve seen in college softball.”
After an eight-hit, 5-3 victory Friday, it was GVSU that threw the first blow. One more victory Saturday, with two chances to do it, would totter the Greyhounds to the mat. So close, but good stories have a way of meandering, leaving the reader wanting more.
GVSU dropped the second game of the playoff 4-2 as senior Hannah Santora struggled to replicate her day one results. Of course, it would all come down to one final game – anything else would have seemed too hasty.
Martin squared the game at two with a solo shot to right field in the bottom of the fifth and freshman Sara Andrasik, with a little help, narrowly escaped the top of the sixth with a runner left on third.
The stage set, the Taylor twins, both juniors, obliged the moment – Brittany getting on base and advanced to second, Briauna driving her sister in with an RBI single. 34-0 heading on the season heading into game three against Indianapolis after maintaining a lead after six innings, GVSU held onto a 3-2 victory and extended the streak to 35 games.
“Good win,” Woods said. “I mean the hitting came through – you’ve got a freshman pitcher (Andrasik) who hung in there real tough – it was nice. Of course you’d like to win the first one today, but golly sakes it was a well-played game. Very close again and real happy we could back in the second game and keep our momentum going in the right direction. There’s not too many times we’ve had to come back from a loss, but we’ve done it and I said ‘You girls, find a way to do it. Find a way to get it done.’ They’ve done that all year and they did it during the game. I thought every game was a nail bitter – just great softball. So happy we came out on top.”
Momentum always seems to be a key factor in playoff situations and GVSU has seemingly rode a powerful wave destined to arrive in Virginia all season long. More integral to the victory and to the season than momentum, the records, the streaks, the story lines and the statistics etc. combined however was the Laker team itself – every piece, every player.
“I think we went in there confident, which we should have, and I think every win we had this weekend was a complete team win,” Martin said. “Every single person in our lineup, on the field had a crucial point and part of that game – all the games this weekend. I think it’s great in that aspect. Like today in that second game, the one we won, it was our nine hitter (Brittany Taylor) that scored and that’s just awesome when you can count on (everyone) all the way through the lineup to win and hit good.”
Confidence and a win total (44-7) at a season high, the Lakers will make the trip to Salem, VA. this Thursday – prepared to tackle their next obstacle. For now, the Atlantic Region Champion Kutztown University Bears (34-21). Before they can achieve their fairy tale ending, they might have to convince themselves to believe it first.
“It’s so surreal right now,” Martin said. “We’re getting on the bus and I’m like ‘Did this really just happen?! Did we just win?! We’re going to the World Series.’ I can’t even really grasp it right now.”