GVSU sweeps Wayne State 2-0 in NCAA Super Regionals
Lakers win 5-4, 1-0, advance to College World Series
Swarm the circle and pose for the pictures. The Grand Valley State softball team is the 2016 Midwest Super Regional champions.
The fourth seeded Lakers (43-11) stunned the hosts and third seeded (No. 10 nationally) Wayne State (50-10) with a remarkable seventh inning rally in a 5-4 game one victory on May 11 and then defeated the Warriors in a tight 1-0 pitching duel on May 12 to win the best-of-three series.
“We pulled through. Our pitching staff was fantastic,” said GVSU head coach Dana Callihan. “All year long we have been playing with nine lives – so they say – and we did so again today.”
Game one featured two of the best pitchers in the region, and arguably in the country.
GLIAC Freshman of the Year Allison Lipovsky took the ball for the Lakers supporting a 0.86 ERA entering the contest, eighth best in the nation. GLIAC Player of the Year Lyndsay Butler commanded the circle and led off for the Warriors. Butler came in with the fifth lowest ERA (0.70) and second highest batting average (.490) in Division II.
Butler had the upper hand early as GVSU was held scoreless through the first five innings. Meanwhile, Lipovsky was pulled for sophomore Courtney Reinhold in the fourth inning having allowed two earned runs on five hits.
Lipovsky picked up another run (not earned) when Reinhold balked with a runner on third base and two outs to give Wayne State a 3-0 lead.
“I slide my foot across (the pitching rubber) when I push off and I just slipped,” Reinhold said. “It happens, you got to come back from it.”
The Lakers did so by keeping constant pressure on Butler throughout the game. GVSU left runners on base and recorded a hit in every inning. After the GLIAC rivals traded runs in the sixth inning, the mounting pressure finally caused the cork to pop.
“Going into the last inning we had hits,” said junior Jenna Lenza. “It’s not like we weren’t getting hits, so I knew that it was going to come eventually and it did for us at the right time.”
Down to the Lakers’ final two outs and trailing 4-1, sophomore Kaylie Rhynard kicked off the rally with a single on a 0-2 pitch. Lenza followed with another single, her third base hit of the game, and they both moved up on a wild pitch.
Senior McKenze Supernaw brought in the first run on a grounder back to the circle that was slowed down, but not picked up by Butler’s glove which allowed Supernaw to reach base.
Lenza crossed home plate on the next pitch making it 4-3, as Ellie Balbach lined a single to left field.
Two pitches later, Shannon Flaherty laced a ball to the left side that the third basemen had trouble containing. Tanner Kiessel, pinch running for Supernaw, slid into third base on the play, but quickly realized – much ado to Callihan in the third base coaching box – that the ball had been knocked up into the air and drifted away from the third basemen.
Kiessel quickly picked herself up and scampered home to tie the game at 4-4.
Senior Chelsea Horvath stepped in two batters later with two outs and delivered the dagger – a line drive back up the middle. Horvath’s clutch RBI hit held up as the winning run, 5-4, as fellow senior pitcher Sara Andrasik threw a 1-2-3 bottom half of the inning on 10 pitches to earn her sixth save of the season.
“It’s pretty hard to put into words – excited, an overwhelming feeling of excitement,” Horvath said. “I’m incredibly proud of every single teammate, whether they were on the bench or in the field or wherever they were. I think proud is the main emotion.”
While Butler pitched a complete game for the Warriors, she gave up a season-high 14 hits. GVSU’s three pitchers combined to allow half as many hits (7) in the come from behind victory.
Proving that Butler isn’t the only pitcher in the conference with a lethal swing, Balbach got the start in game two on a breezy afternoon and promptly helped her own cause by blasting a solo home run in the second inning to give the Lakers a 1-0 lead.
“It was pretty much right down the middle,” Balbach said. “I honestly thought it was going to be too high, but I guess not.”
That’s all the offense the Lakers needed as Balbach didn’t give up a run and only three hits in five innings work.
“It was incredible. She had so much composure and confidence, and just went right at their hitters,” catcher Rhynard said. “She was the MVP of the game. She got the winning hit and just threw an outstanding game.”
Andrasik came in as the closer and ended Wayne State’s season throwing a scoreless two inning save to send GVSU to its third College World Series appearance in program history.
“I’ll be honest, is this the most talented team? I don’t know,” Callihan said. “But, they got the most heart. That’s for sure.”
The Lakers are one of eight teams traveling to Denver, Colorado to determine who gets crowned the Division II national champion. GVSU will play the winner of the South Central Super Regional (nationally ranked No. 1 West Texas A&M or No. 9 St. Mary's) in the first round on May 17 at 2 p.m.