Home run king swings for history in 2014
No. 4 GVSU begins season with series at No. 5 USI
The Grand Valley State University baseball team closed out its 2013 campaign two wins and one home run away from a truly historic year under first-year head coach Jamie Detillion.
GVSU posted its second-best season in program history with a third-place finish at the NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals and appears to have a roster capable of duplicating the success this year.
“I wouldn’t say I expected to be there that quick,” Detillion said. “We definitely work for it — and I don’t think there should ever be a drop-off in what we expect or do since we’ve been there so many times as a program. It’s kind of hard not to envision the season without that being a part of the process.”
The Lakers will begin as the No. 4 team in the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association Division II poll and certainly appear to have the bats to compete among the nation’s best teams.
All eyes will be on senior first baseman Giancarlo Brugnoni early on, because the slugger is just one blast away from emerging as the school’s only all-time home run leader.
Brugnoni’s 32 career jacks match the totals of Dustin Vugteveen (2000-01) and Larry David (1979-1982) in the GVSU record book.
“I don’t really think about that,” said the NCBWA pre-season All-American First Team honoree. “If it happens it happens. I hope it does obviously, but I’ve just got to stay within myself. I’ve really been working hard on trying to cut down on strikeouts; that’s a big thing I really had to approach this season.”
He highlights a roster full of talent, which also includes a trio of pre-season All-Region First Team selections in junior second baseman Kevin Zak, junior outfielder Jamie Potts and sophomore pitcher Patrick Kelly.
Zak led the team with a .387 batting average a year ago while racking up 82 hits, 49 runs, 38 RBI, 14 doubles, and 12 stolen bases.
Potts, who is also an All-American tight end for the football team, rounds out the three-headed monster in the GVSU lineup. He hit .379 in 2013 and contributed with 66 hits, 31 runs, 38 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
“We’ve got a couple pretty talented guys who have made some pretty big strides,” Detillion said. “It’s mostly leadership. They work hard physically and do the right things to put themselves in position to succeed on the field.”
Kelly pitched his way to an 8-2 record with a 2.20 ERA in 77.2 innings of work last season on his way to being named the 2013 GLIAC Freshman of the Year.
He figures to lead an inexperienced pitching staff that lost a number of key arms in the offseason, including the all-time Division II saves leader, Brad Zambron.
“Two of the guys we think will be starters are pretty tall guys, hard throwers,” Kelly said. “They came from junior colleges and you can tell they have pitched for a long time. They’re going to come in and throw strikes and help us win.”
The team has one of the toughest early-season schedules in the nation, starting with a trio of nine-inning games at the No. 5 University of Southern Indiana this weekend.
The Lakers sure seem to have the leaders in place to make another run in 2014, but they’re still taking it one step at a time.
“We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves with this World Series talk,” Brugnoni said. “It’s still February. We’ve got to win a couple games first, get on our feet, and mesh as a team first before we can even start talking about goals like that.”