Lakers stumble in 1-2 series at Tiffin
GVSU drops two GLIAC contests after 6-0 start
Since the start of GLIAC play, it was all systems go for the Grand Valley State University baseball team.
Prior to Monday’s doubleheader at Tiffin University, GVSU had strung together a six-game winning streak and was undefeated in conference play.
The streak was poised to continue against a lowly Tiffin (6-20) squad, but a combination of sloppy defense and timely hitting by the Dragons sent the Lakers (16-7) home with their first two conference losses.
“It was poor baseball all around,” said senior first baseman Giancarlo Brugnoni. “Every aspect of our game was subpar and there’s no excuse for it. We need to use this weekend as a wakeup call to fuel the rest of our season.”
GVSU jumped out to a 4-0 lead in game one, highlighted by back-to-back home runs courtesy of Brugnoni and second baseman Kevin Zak. Things went south quickly, though, as the Lakers surrendered seven unearned runs to drop the opener 7-4.
Junior starter Evan Nietfeldt held the Dragons hitless through four innings, but GVSU committed four errors in the fifth inning, leading to seven Tiffin runs.
GVSU battled back, though, and loaded the bases in the top of the seventh to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. But junior third baseman Aaron Overbeck struck out, and GVSU suffered its first GLIAC loss of the season.
The Lakers came out with a vengeance in game two, plating nine runs in the first three innings to race out to an early 8-0 lead. Zak led GVSU offensively again, blasting his third round-tripper in as many games as part of his four-RBI game.
“The middle of the order has been great,” head coach Jamie Detillion said. “I’m really confident in them. One of the things we go after is offensive production, so it’s nice to have guys on base for them so they can bring runners around.”
However, it was Tiffin that brought the runners around for the rest of the game. The comeback train started to pick up steam as the Dragons brought four men around to score in the bottom of the third to trim the Laker lead to five.
After chasing starter Adam Poel (1-0), Tiffin roughed up GVSU’s bullpen to the tune of a four-run fifth to even the score at 8-8. However, a ruling from the press box determined the Lakers were shorted one run, and the score was changed to 9-8.
Still, if it weren’t for closer Chris Ripple (0-1), the Lakers may have left Monday night with a bewildering Tiffin sweep. Ripple escaped jams in the fifth and sixth innings before retiring the side in order in the seventh, earning his sixth save of the season in a lengthy outing.
Ripple was once again the focus in a nine-inning game three, but this time, the tables were turned.
Down one run in the eighth inning, GVSU was searching for a way to bring home the tying run. As it so often does, the search ended when Brugnoni stepped to the plate and mauled his GLIAC-leading seventh home run of the season to give the Lakers a late 7-6 lead.
It didn’t last.
With two outs in the bottom of the last, Tiffin managed to mount a late rally, capitalizing on a hit batter and another GVSU error to tie the game at 7-7. With the winning run in scoring position, Tiffin’s Isaac Perry laced a walk-off single into the outfield to take the final game of the series 8-7.
Despite surrendering the loss, Ripple said Monday’s unusually long appearance didn’t alter his play.
“Once I’m on the mound, the adrenaline takes over and any soreness or fatigue from (Monday’s) outing didn’t affect me,” Ripple said. “I just missed a few spots in some big situations and have to learn from it.”
The Lakers will look to bounce back in Allendale (for the first time this season) against Ohio Dominican University in a three-game series starting on Saturday.