GVSU softball goes 3-9 in annual spring break trip
The No. 7-ranked Lakers' season took a wrong turn after dropping the first four games of the trip
GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Jenna Lenza (4) hits the ball high and down field. Grand Valley State squares off against Wayne State in the second game of the Midwest Super Regional tournament. The Lakers came out with the victory with a final score of 1-0 on Thursday, May 12, 2016 in Detroit, MI.
The Grand Valley State softball team had a rough spring break.
The No. 7 team in the country traveled to Clermont, Florida for their annual spring break trip and went 3-9 in 12 games. The Lakers lost their first four games of the trip and then lost five out of the next eight. The surprisingly poor week drops GVSU’s record to 6-10 with GLIAC play just around the corner.
Needless to say, the Lakers didn’t foresee coming from the warm beaches of Florida back to the cold reality of Michigan in the position that they’re in.
“It seemed like the worst thing happened at the most inopportune times,” said GVSU softball coach Dana Callihan. “There were times where we just couldn’t recover from and there were times that we did battle back, but something went south again.”
There were several instances where the Lakers were one play away from taking a late lead or tying the game up, but could not get over the hump in situations that they were able to last year.
In the first game against Minnesota Duluth Sunday, March 5, the Lakers fell behind 7-0 and one run away from mercy rule by the fourth inning. With their opponent expecting an easy win, GVSU stormed back and pulled within two runs in the seventh inning with a solo home run from senior Ellie Balbach. However, that would be the only hit of the inning for GVSU.
In the next game against Notre Dame College the same day, it was the ladies in blue who gave up a lead—the Lakers squandered an early 3-0 cushion and found themselves tied with NDC 4-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. Junior pitcher Courtney Reinhold came into the game for relief with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning and recorded a strikeout for the final out to preserve the tie.
She wouldn’t be so lucky the next inning. NDC loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth and scored on a go-ahead, bases-loaded walk. The Lakers would get runners on the corners in the final frame, but NDC held on to win 5-4.
“I feel like we were a little too tense sometimes,” Balbach said. “I feel like we just need to go out there and play; we’re thinking too much. That’s what it’s going to come down to
The next pair of games Monday, March 6, would not prove fruitful for GVSU either. A Lakers’ field error broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning, giving Holy Family a 4-3 edge that they would never relinquish. The Lakers were shut out 5-0 in the second half of the double-header by No. 13-ranked Southern Indiana after Balbach gave up all five runs in the first four innings.
The GVSU bats briefly woke up Tuesday, March 6, with a 13-5 win over Quincy, thanks in part to senior Jenna Lenza, who went 4-for-4 with four RBIs and was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
The second game of the day featured a pitching duel between GVSU sophomore Allison Lipovsky and University of Missouri-St. Louis pitcher Carly Kingery. The two aces both pitched complete games, combining for just 10 hits allowed and 18 strikeouts. It was Kingery who would come out on top, though, as Lipovsky gave up an RBI double and an RBI groundout in the 2-0 loss. It is Lipovsky’s (1-1) only loss of the season.
“I think we’ll get there,” Lipovsky said. “I’m not too worried about the rest of the season. We’re a little nervous, there’s a lot of pressure on us, but I think we’ll get the job done.
“I think we’ll come back and do some work.”
After a day off Wednesday, the Lakers notched five runs in the fifth inning of a 7-3 victory over Rockhurst Thursday, March 9, but found themselves shut out once again in another pitchers’ duel 2-0 to Winona State in game two.
Trying to finish the weekend strong, the Lakers had an opportunity against Sioux Falls Friday, March 10. After freshman Kayla Plastiak ripped an RBI-double to tie the game at seven heading into bottom of the seventh, it was up to Balbach to protect the tie. Balbach gave up a leadoff walk, struck out the next batter but then allowed back-to-back singles, which scored the game’s winning run, 8-7.
The Lakers finally got redemption in game two. Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Lenza walked up to the plate with two outs. On the second pitch, the ball cracked off Lenza’s bat for a walk-off home run.
After finally getting a big play in a crucial moment, GVSU ended the trip Saturday, March 11, with two losses. The Lakers lost 8-5 to Drury and then lost 2-1 to Fairmont State after surrendering two runs in the sixth inning.
“We have to get back on the attack mode,” Callihan said. “You could tell at the end they were very hesitant, very tentative, not making good decisions, trying to do more than they’re capable of. Those are things we can control that we did not control well.
“We’ve got to get back to the basics, get back to playing smart, Grand Valley softball.”
After the trip, the Lakers’ top batters are Lenza (.444 average, 11 RBIs), sophomore Teagan Shomin (.380 average, four RBIs), sophomore Shannon Flaherty (.346, six RBIs), Balbach (.339 average, 13 RBIs) and freshman Kelcie LaTour (.333 average, 13 RBIs).
The Lakers’ four-player pitching staff ended the trip with no player going over two wins for the season. Lipovsky is 1-1 in four starts and six appearances with a 1.69 ERA, and leads the team in strikeouts (38) and walks (21). Balbach is 1-4 in five starts and six appearances with a 2.51 ERA. She leads the team with 124 batters faced.
Junior transfer Allie Grys went 2-1 in three starts and six appearances with a 3.67 ERA and a team-low seven walks. Reinhold is 2-4 with four starts and a team-high eight appearances, and is sporting a 4.67 ERA.
Up next, the Lakers will hit the road again for a doubleheader with Purdue-Northwest Saturday, March 18, with the first bout at 2 p.m.