Andrasik expands arsenal for GVSU softball
Senior pitcher looks to replicate freshman year success
Fatigued, yet focused. Grand Valley State senior Sara Andrasik wound up from 43 feet away and delivered pitch No. 125 of the evening. No called third strike this time, but a grounder over to the shortstop meant the same thing — GVSU softball was off to a winning start in 2016.
The Lakers season-opening 4-3 win over Missouri S&T was the first of four consecutive victories for GVSU at the Lewis Dome Invitational over the weekend. But, more symbolically, the victory was a suitable analogy to the collegiate career of Andrasik, GVSU's premier starting pitcher.
Despite giving up a hit on the second pitch of the game, the right-hander from Sagamore Hills, Ohio, settled in to toss six scoreless innings. When adversity struck in the top of the seventh inning, Andrasik anchored down and halted the Miners' last inning rally a run short.
The complete game performance had a small blemish at the start, consistent dominance throughout, with the occasional struggle and a memorable finish.
“Freshman year I came out really strong, no one really knew me, which I think helped a lot,” Andrasik said. “Sophomore year was definitely more of struggle, definitely a learning experience. Last year was a recovery year, coming off a rough sophomore year. And now I’m just trying to go out and have a great senior season, have some fun and make some memories with this awesome team.”
Andrasik, coming out of Nordonia High School, quickly adapted after picking up a loss in her Laker debut as a freshman to become the vital young power arm of the GVSU pitching staff.
“She was a hard thrower at the beginning,” said GVSU head coach Dana Callihan. “When she came out of high school she just threw it by everybody. She could throw hard, so she used that to her advantage.”
With two no-hitters and 161 strikeouts (seventh-most in a single season at GVSU), Andrasik was untouchable at times as she boasted a 20-4 record and a 1.59 ERA to be named the 2013 GLIAC Freshman of the Year.
That success has been difficult to duplicate. Since her breakout rookie campaign, Andrasik is 24-14 with 182 punch-outs and a 3.28 ERA.
It’s a respectable output, and includes another no-hitter and multiple complete game victories against ranked opponents. Plenty of personal accolades have come, as well, from the GLIAC All-Academic Excellence Team to a Daktronics All-America Honorable Mention.
The honors are quite remarkable for a player that wasn’t initially on the Lakers’ recruiting list.
“How I got to Grand Valley was different than most people and so I never knew what to expect,” Andrasik said. “I wasn’t so much as recruited by coaches throughout my career in high school. I was seen by another player over the summer and they recommended me to the coach.”
A classic diamond in the rough. But, over time, the Lakers’ mysterious flamethrower found herself on everyone’s scouting report. Slowly, but surely, came the realization that nearly every power pitcher has to go through: pure velocity wasn’t always going to be effective.
“Getting (Andrasik) to understand the differences between blowing it by people and actually throwing different pitches, being able to move (the ball around) and work a hitter has been her biggest improvement,” Callihan said.
Now, with a variety of quality pitches at her disposal, Andrasik doesn’t have to rely on her fastball as frequently to strike out batters. A routine ground ball to the shortstop or a pop fly induced by a changeup is just as effective.
While pitching adjustments have be made, Andrasik's punch-out mentality still remains.
“She really likes to go at the batters and tries to work ahead in the count,” said junior catcher Marianne Deppe. “She really likes to shut them down and get strikeouts.”
So, all that’s left to be written is the final inning: a memorable finish.
The script is still a work in progress. But, after two strong outings to start the season and the intensity Andrasik exudes when she gets the ball, she shines.
“A truly competitive side comes out when I’m on the mound,” Andrasik said. “Kind of a take-no-prisoners attitude and get everyone out. You’re not out there to make friends with the other team.”
Certainly, more awards and accolades are bound to come her way, as well as another likely postseason appearance for the team.