GVSU's softball World Series run ends in the semifinals
GVSU softball with their national team trophies
Grand Valley State University softball has come a long way since they finished 22-24 in 2010. In the 172 games GVSU has played since, the Lakers have won 132 – a .767 three-year win percentage, packing on a plethora of conference titles, tournament wins, broken records and individual accolades along the way.
After traveling over 650 miles to Salem, Va. this past weekend to participate in the schools first Division II college softball World Series tournament since 2002, the cross country journey four years in the making sputtered to a close – one game short of the desired destination.
“We’re a little bit disappointed, but you have to remember how far you came, how far our team has come,” said senior Katie Martin, who at last Wednesday’s World Series banquet became the first student-athlete in the history of the award to twice be named the Daktronics National Player of the Year. “This is the first time we’ve made it to the World Series in a long time. It’s a great accomplishment, definitely, and we’re all very proud and very happy to have been here and to have had this opportunity. Just sad to see the end.”
All good things must come to an end eventually and this time around, the Lakers didn’t get the conclusion they’d hoped for. The final haul of their trip didn’t get off to the smooth start they’d hoped for, either.
Opening World Series play against unranked Kutztown University Thursday afternoon, GVSU struggled to acclimate to the stage – losing to the Golden Bears 3-1. The Lakers outhit Kutztown 6-5 as Martin recorded her 20th home run of the season, but a couple of uncharacteristic errors allowed Kutztown to score three unearned runs.
“We were a little nervous,” Martin said. “I think the first day we didn’t play the way we normally play. I couldn’t really name a reason why, but it just kind of happened – every team has their days.”
The second act, a do-or-die death defying high dive performance, revived the Lakers collective spirit and kept their World Series hopes alive in the losers bracket.
An 8-4 victory over No. 6 Texas Woman’s University was spurred on by a four-run rally in the top of the fifth in which Martin scored junior Briauna Taylor and senior Nellie Kosola on a two-run double before senior Emily Jones slugged in a quadruple.
Freshman Sara Andrasik sealed the deal in the seventh, closing down and cleaning up shop after entering the game with no-outs and bases loaded, advancing the Lakers to another elimination face-off.
Friday evening, Senior Maggie Kopas started the scoring off in the Lakers second game of the day, this time against No. 27 Molloy, homering to left center in the top of the second. It wasn’t until another four-run fifth inning in which junior Miranda Clearly catapulted a three-run long ball scoring seniors Jones and Martin that the Lakers were able to safely put the Molloy Lions back in their cage by a 5-2 margin.
“We came back yesterday (Saturday) and proved we were meant to be here,” Martin said. “We hit, we fielded, we pitched – everything was there.”
For only the second time in school history, GVSU was one of the final four teams left playing in Division II collegiate softball. As it’s prone to do, history was about to repeat itself once more.
A rematch against Kutztown unfolded Sunday afternoon with a trip to the title game against No. 19 Central Oklahoma University on the line.
GVSU came out to a 1-0 lead in the first after Kosola scored on a wild pitch, but the Laker lead was to be short lived. The Golden Bears, who batted on the right side of a frequently called pitching infraction against GVSU starting pitcher senior Hannah Santora, who throws with a distinctive hop, scored multiple runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings, cruising to a 7-2 victory.
“We ran into some umpire situations we hadn’t had all year,” said GVSU head coach Doc Woods. “They called illegal pitches on Hannah (Santora) that she had not been called on all year, at least four or five, and it always seemed to be when an out was called. That really hurt us big time. Runners move up, batter goes back. We’re not allowed to talk about umpires and all that, but that situation threw us sort of an unplayable lie.”
The rules state that a pitchers pivot foot must begin in contact with the pitcher’s plate and must remain in contact with the ground and drag until the non-pivot foot touches the ground. The execution of the call however couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time for the Lakers.
“Some of the games I feel like we game them 25 outs,” Martin said. “They’d get an extra four outs because someone would hit the ball in the air, we’d catch it – that’s an out usually – but they’d call an illegal pitch. Why they decided to call it this weekend and not the whole season, I don’t know. I hate to blame it on anything, but I think the umps really affected us. Once you get down, you’re out and it’s really tough to pick yourself back up after that. It just feels like everything’s against you.”
The Lakers historic 2013 season came to a close with a final record of 46-9, but not before they managed to squeeze in a few last minute distinctions.
Martin, who wrapped up her storied career breaking two more records over the course of the tournament – career RBI (240) and walks (112), giving her eight GVSU career records in total, was named to the 2013 All-Tournament Team with senior teammate Kayleigh Bertram and to the Daktronics All-American first team for the second time in her career, as Kosola and Andrasik earned Dakronics All-American honorable mention laurels.
It’s never easy pulling in from the end of the road, but in softball as in life, it’s the trip, the innings played in between – not the ultimate arrival – that holds value. And what a trip it’s been for the Lakers, who concluded their journey the No. 3 team in the nation, runners-up to the eventual runners-up Kutztown Golden Bears, who lost to Central Oklahoma 5-2 in the World Series championship. Using a record book as a makeshift scrapbook, the 2013 season that was won’t soon be forgotten.
“It’s been a great season,” Woods said. “Anytime you can win a Regional, Super Regional and go to the college World Series – only eight teams in Division II out of about 300 that play softball get a chance to get here – that’s pretty darn good. Any time you end on a loss, you have a down feeling, but I think that will leave and I think especially the seniors will reflect back on the memories of what an excellent year it was.”