GVSU baseball goes 3-3-1 during spring break
Strong bats, inconsistent pitching sum up Lakers' Florida trip
The trip was up-and-down, and sometimes the scores resembled low-scoring football games rather than baseball, but the Grand Valley State baseball team returned back to Allendale with a better understanding of themselves and what's ahead.
The Lakers trekked around Florida for a seven-game spring break trip, posting a 3-3-1 record against largely strong competition. GVSU dropped the opening game in a 22-7 blowout against No. 1 Tampa, tied Ohio Dominican 4-4, lost to Minnesota St. Mankato 12-2, trounced Alderson Broaddus 13-0, beat Slippery Rock 6-1, fell to Minnesota Crookston 12-9 and closed out the trip with a 17-9 thumping of Rockhurst.
"We played a lot of good teams, and good teams exploit weaknesses," said closer Matt Williams. "We know what we got to work on going out of the trip."
The combination of quality opposition, dry fields and strong winds led to a high-scoring trip across the board. Laker pitchers struggled to silence opposing bats, and gave up first-inning runs in three of the seven games, and allowed an average of 8.57 runs per game during the trip.
"There's been flashes in all three phases of the game, it's a matter of getting a trip like this that depletes your bullpen, it takes its toll on pitching seven straight days," said GVSU head coach Jamie Detillion. "There are some things that we typically do on this trip that we don't normally see on a four-game series in the week."
The Lakers exit the trip a tick above .500 for the season, with a positive 7-6-1 record. Detillion experimented slightly with the day-to-day positional lineups, but the Lakers largely stuck with the same corps throughout the trip.
Keith Browning, a speedy center fielder, slotted in at the two-hole in GVSU's lineup throughout the trip. Browning has started all 14 games for the Lakers this season, and is raking at a .377 clip, including a team-best 23 hits, 15 RBIs and three stolen bases. GVSU has struggled to keep a clean defensive slate this season, but Browning's 1.000 fielding percentage is worth boasting.
Browning, a junior transfer from Kansas State, pointed to GVSU's most successful games stemming from the original baseball principle — fun.
"Basically we won the games we won that we were out there having fun, played relaxed, people have more confidence," Browning said. "When the game is stressing us out we're not performing our best, but when we're having fun, we all perform."
The Lakers have eight near-everyday hitters with over-.300 batting averages, paced by third baseman Anthony Villar's scorching .457 average, despite having only played in 10 of GVSU's 14 games.
On the mound, the Lakers starters have struggled to find consistency and keep pitches low in the zone, but Williams, reliever Zach Anderson and starter Kyle Lawson have been bright sports.
Williams has anchored the back end of GVSU's bullpen, posting a 1.12 ERA, 11 strikeouts and two saves in six appearances.
"Confidence is pretty high right now," Williams said. "Catchers are just calling a great game, getting good fielding behind me, I can't do it with eight guys behind me."
Lawson, a junior, twirled a shutout against Alderson Broaddus on March 11, allowing just four hits, striking out 11 and walking none. Lawson's efforts earned him GLIAC North Division Pitcher of the Week.
GVSU's packed schedule didn't allow the team much time to enjoy a typical Florida spring break, but it did give the Lakers a healthy understanding of what needs to be done to improve.
"One inning (against Minnesota Crookston), we had an error with two outs and none on that led to five runs," Detillion said. "It's something we've got to get better at and learn how to put our foot down and stop the bleeding."
Next on the slate for the Lakers in the Midwest Region Crossover Baseball Showcase in Westfield, Indiana. GVSU will play four games from March 19-20.