GVSU sweeps Hillsdale to close regular season
Lakers earn No. 2 seed in conference tournament, will face Findlay
The games were supposed to be played a few weeks ago, but the weather decided to get involved.
As a result, the Grand Valley State softball team (36-8, 21-5 GLIAC) was faced with a doubleheader on the last day of the regular season. The doubleheader would determine which team would finish second place in the conference.
The Lakers, with the home crowd behind them, didn’t disappoint on April 24 as they swept Hillsdale (24-10, 19-7 GLIAC) in the make-up twinbill by scores of 7-1 and 3-0.
The pair of victories have GVSU coasting into the GLIAC Tournament next weekend, sporting a 13-game win streak and the No. 2 seed while having bumped Hillsdale down to the No. 3.
“We have been on a good roll,” said GVSU head coach Dana Callihan. “I think (these wins) were good from a mental standpoint to maintain that confidence and momentum knowing we can beat anybody.”
Sophomore Courtney Reinhold was in the circle for game one and threw her seventh complete game, allowing one run on six hits to move to 8-3 on the season.
Her success thrived on keeping the infielders busy, as she recorded 15 groundouts and was a ball magnet herself, collecting a team-high six assists. Reinhold gave much praise to first basemen McKenze Supernaw for scooping up some of her wild throws.
“I for some reason had problems throwing it to first base today,” Reinhold said while laughing at herself. “But, Mac (Supernaw) is awesome over there and gets (the bad throws) a lot. It’s better for (the ball) to come at someone than them getting a hit.”
The Laker offense cracked the scoreboard first in the bottom of the second on its first hit. Junior Kelsey Dominguez lined a two-out, two-run double to left center as freshman Shannon Flaherty scampered home from first base. Flaherty had reached base on a two-out fielding error.
GVSU’s 1-0 lead held up until the bottom of the fifth before the Lakers started to see the ball better as they strung together six consecutive positive at-bats. Senior Chelsea Horvath started it off by hitting her first home run of the season over the 220 marker in center.
“I hit better when I’m not thinking,” Horvath said. “I think my first thought was before I stepped into the (batter’s) box was ‘this could be your last innings, last game here on this field.’ Then, I just walked in there, didn’t think about a thing and just reacted to the ball. It felt really good.”
The rout was on from there as the score went from 2-0 to 7-0 in a hurry.
“That’s softball. It’s kind of one of those things, once somebody does something big it gets the train rolling,” Horvath said. “Especially with this team. We fed off each other and (my home run) kind of got everyone pumped up.”
First, sophomore Kaylie Rhynard showed off her cross country speed on a two-run triple. Junior Jenna Lenza followed with a double down the left field line and senior McKenze Supernaw, picking up where she left off yesterday, pulled a two-run homer around the foul pole in left.
Hillsdale had a mini two-out rally in the top of the sixth to pull a run back on three hits, and left two runners on base. The Chargers then stranded another runner in the top of the seventh as Reinhold nabbed another comebacker to the circle to end the game, 7-1.
“They are a really good team,” Reinhold said. “So, I just went out and really wanted to shut them down early, which I think we did – especially with our hitting, they were awesome. So, I think it was a little more serious today.”
The Lakers grabbed another 1-0 lead in the game two in support of junior lefty Ellie Balbach. Junior Janae Langs singled to right field in the top of third, stole second base and came around to score on a head-first slide off a sharp single up the middle by Rhynard.
Callihan had no second thoughts about possibly holding the speedy Langs at third base on what would have been a close play at the plate had the ball not been cut off.
“Usually I can make my mind up as soon as the ball is hit,” she said. “With Janae (Langs) and Kaylie (Rhynard) especially, I want to be aggressive with them.”
Hillsdale attempted to even the score in the bottom half, but a running catch in foul territory by Supernaw and hard grounder back to Balbach left the tying runner on third base.
Balbach led off the next inning with a double and got dirty sliding into second base. She was lifted for a pinch runner, Ali Vander Meer, who got sacrificed over to third base. But, the Lakers couldn’t drive her in with two outs to work with.
With the bases juiced in the top of the fifth, Supernaw drove a 1-2 pitch to the warning track in center for a long sacrifice fly to extend the lead, 2-0. The Lakers left the remaining two runners on base as Balbach grounded out to second.
Balbach was relieved by senior Sara Andrasik in the bottom of the sixth. Andrasik earned her third save of the season as the pitching tandem held Hillsdale to just one hit in the nightcap.
GVSU added an insurance run in the top of seventh on a sacrifice fly by Lenza. Langs tagged up from third and scored all three Laker runs in the game.
Andrasik concluded what is likely to be her last home appearance with a strikeout to complete the sweep.
The Lakers travel to Findlay, Ohio next for the GLIAC Tournament, being held from April 29-May 1. After earning the two seed over Hillsdale, GVSU will take on the host No. 7 Findlay (29-19, 15-11 GLIAC) on April 29 at noon in the first round of the double elimination tournament.