Lakers swing into '15 loaded with talent
GVSU slated to open season against reigning champ USI
The Grand Valley State baseball team is looking for its fifth straight GLIAC title this year, and has all the pieces in place to make it happen.
Last year, GVSU finished with a 39-13 record and a 24-6 mark in the GLIAC, but its run fell short in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinals. The Lakers start the year ranked in a number of polls, and are the favorites to finish as GLIAC champions.
“It’s nice to start the year ranked and recognized,” said coach Jamie Detillion. “That shows a great respect for the history of the things we have accomplished, sets the tone for the season and continues the tradition here. The team doesn’t feel any pressure, we expect to win, and are working towards our goal of winning championships.”
The Lakers have plenty of experience and talented senior players coming back this year.
GVSU returns 16 letter winners from last year’s team. Out of those 16 winners, eight of them were starters and six out of those eight starters were named to the NCBWA Preseason All-American or All-Midwest Region teams.
The Laker offense has a plethora of key players returning from last year’s team, including four hitters who posted a batting average of .300 or better in the 2014 campaign.
GVSU’s offense is led by senior right fielder Jamie Potts, who was a 2014 Daktronics All-American First Team selection, leading the Lakers with a .412 batting average, 82 hits, 13 doubles and five triples.
Another key batter is senior shortstop Kevin Zak, who hit a lofty .371 last year and blasted seven home runs. Zak racked up 49 RBIs and showcased speed, swiping 16 bases. Both Zak and Potts were picked by NCBWA as Preseason All-Americans.
Senior third baseman Aaron Overbeck is also expected to be a key contributor in 2015. Overbeck hit .333 last year, had eight doubles, clubbed four home runs and drove in 34 runs while managing to strike out just 18 times in 150 plate appearances.
Meanwhile, senior infielder Jessie Abel is also returning for the Lakers. Abel hit .313, knocked in 40 RBIs and collected 55 hits, including nine doubles. Abel also hit two home runs and had an on-base percentage of .417, while posting 14 multi-hit and 10 multi-RBI games.
Although the Lakers lose a great player in GVSU’s all-time leader in home runs, Giancarlo Brugnoni, they are very confident they have the depth as a team to imitate his production.
“You can’t replace a player like Brugnoni, and we don’t want one player to have the mindset that they have to be the guy to do it,” Potts said.
Just like the offense, the Lakers have a multitude of pitching talent returning. GVSU is led by the two-headed monster of Evan Nietfeldt and Aaron Jensen.
Nietfeldt is the reigning GLIAC Pitcher of the Year. He started 12 games for the Lakers last season and finished with a 9-1 record with a 2.33 ERA, good for third-best in the GLIAC. The standout finished with two complete games and had one shutout, striking out 33 batters in 77 innings of work.
“As a pitching staff, we always attack hitters and our goal as a team is to challenge hitters and force them to get themselves out,” he said.
Jensen was the workhorse for the Laker pitching staff last year, striking out 47 batters in 81 innings of work. His 1.82 ERA ranked 33rd among pitchers in Division II. Jensen finished with a 7-3 record in 12 starts.
The Lakers are scheduled to begin their season Friday with a three-game series at No. 3 Southern Indiana (pending weather).