GVSU softball eliminated from GLIAC Tournament
Cold bats lead to the Lakers bowing out of double elimination tournament
No one out with the bases juiced, but the bats ran out of juice.
In an alternative universe, the Grand Valley State softball team could have “won all three of those games and went really far in the tournament,” said junior Jenna Lenza.
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But, missed opportunities like the fifth inning collapse against hosts Findlay, sent the Lakers home earlier than expected.
Second seeded GVSU (37-10) snapped its 13-game winning streak in the first round of the GLIAC Tournament in a 5-0 loss to seventh seeded Findlay on April 29.
The Lakers then staved off elimination a couple hours later with a 6-3 victory over Hillsdale, but bowed out of the double elimination tournament the next morning to Ashland by a score of 3-1.
“It’s not that we played poorly,” said GVSU head coach Dana Callihan. “We just didn’t get the key hits when we needed them or that great play when we needed it – that type of thing. And it’s just the nature of the game, unfortunately.”
With the home crowd behind them, Findlay thrived as the underdogs. The Oilers shut down the Lakers’ offense to five hits and did what GVSU couldn’t – land clutch hits.
Findlay scored two runs while facing two outs in both the third and sixth innings. A solo homerun to lead off the seventh inning sealed the Lakers’ fate to the consolation bracket, 5-0.
GVSU left six runners on base, half of them coming in the fifth inning.
The bases loaded, nobody out threat vanished after a Janae Langs’ strikeout, a single by Kaylie Rhynard that hit Teagan Shomin running from first and a fielder’s choice off the bat of Lenza.
“It’s just missed opportunities that we didn’t get that we could have had,” Lenza said. “But, it’s nothing that we can dwell over. We got to look past it and look forward to Regionals.”
Following the loss to Findlay, another upset had the Lakers in an elimination game later in the afternoon against third seeded Hillsdale.
As both teams wished they were on the other side of the bracket, GVSU settled into the situation they got themselves into and looked confident having recently swept Hillsdale to end the regular season.
Eight of the nine Lakers’ starters recorded a hit and five different players collected RBIs on the six runs GVSU scored.
The balanced attack was supplemented by a good outing from junior Ellie Balbach, who went five innings allowing three runs, and senior Sara Andrasik earning her fourth save of the season pitching two scoreless innings to eliminate Hillsdale, 6-3.
The pitching staff held their own throughout the tournament despite not having GLIAC Freshman of the Year Allison Lipovsky.
Lipovsky didn’t pitch this weekend, or last weekend due to an undisclosed injury. Her possible return to the pitching rotation appears to be questionable for Regionals next weekend.
“We are working on it, I really can’t comment on that,” Callihan said.
Lipovsky’s absence has created a void that the other three Lakers’ pitchers are doing their best to fill.
“The fact that we don’t have Allison (Lipovsky) just means we all have to step up our game a little bit more, be a little more competitive and stay in (the circle) a little bit longer” said sophomore Courtney Reinhold. “I think all of our pitchers did a great job. We all complement each other. We really rely on each other to have each other’s backs and I think we did that this weekend.”
Reinhold got the start and was dealt the loss against fifth seeded Ashland on April 30. The defeat ending GVSU’s conference tournament run a lot sooner than most would have anticipated.
In a game that started a tad before 8 a.m. due to potentially weather problems later in the day, Reinhold was tasked with trying to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard until the Lakers’ bats were able to wake up in crunch time.
It never happen and the defense didn’t do her many favors either. Ashland grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of second on a two-out single and added another run in the fifth as result of three consecutive defensive errors.
The Lakers had a chance to tie score in the bottom half after Tanner Kiessel singled to right field and Shomin doubled to left center to lead off the inning. But, GVSU only managed to plate Kiessel courtesy of a wild pitch.
“You get to this situation and every team you play is a good team,” Callihan said. “Especially today with the Ashland game, they were the better team today.
Ashland got an insurance run in the top of the seventh off Andrasik and then sent GVSU packing with a 1-2-3 inning in the Lakers’ last at-bats. This is the second straight season the Eagles knocked the Lakers out of the GLIAC Tournament by a score of 3-1.
The focus for GVSU now turns to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Midwest Regionals are held from May 5-7 with the top eight teams in the region competing.
The Lakers entered the GLIAC Tournament ranked as the third-best team in the region and ahead of the conference foes Wayne State (fourth), Hillsdale (sixth) and Ferris State (ninth).
The early exit over the weekend will probably see GVSU drop a few spots when the national bracket is released live on ncaa.com at 10 a.m. on May 2.
“Historical (the conference tournament) hasn’t affected the (rankings) a lot,” Callihan said. “It could change and I think we will drop a little bit, but I think we are still OK to get through to next weekend. But, we will find out on Monday morning.”