Season preview: GVSU softball brings back seven starters to try for another playoff run
GV softball brings back seven starters to try for another playoff run
The Grand Valley State softball team is coming off a big 2017 season, where the Lakers won a GLIAC title with a 33-18 overall record (17-5 GLIAC) and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the seventh year in a row. The team would drop two out of three contests in the Midwest Regional Tournament, but those losses have the Lakers poised to build on last year’s strong season.
Luckily for the Lakers, they don’t have a heavy burden of replacing graduating talent. Twelve players from last year’s roster—including seven starters—will be returning to hopefully continue last year’s success.
With temperatures consistently in the upper 30s/lower 40s range, the team has been relegated to practicing inside the turf building, so training options are limited. The team's focus has been on facing live pitching as much as possible so that hitters can develop their timing for the season.
“We’ve been doing situational type stuff for defense just so we can prepare for anything that might come up during a game,” said GVSU head coach Dana Callihan, who is now entering her fourth year with the program.
Although the expectations for this year’s team are higher than past years, Callihan is trying to manage those expectations by focusing on the small things.
“We just want to go out there and be competitive every single day," Callihan said. "Everybody has their own expectations for us, and we have our own. We want to do well in the conference and make the postseason. Those are always goals for us here, but we don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves. We want to take it one pitch at a time.”
The team saw the loss of some contributors on offense after last season. Some of those graduating seniors included All-Midwest Region Second Team and All-GLIAC Second Team outfielder Janae Langs and Kelsey Dominguez, respectively.
But the Lakers’ biggest shoe to fill will be that of Jenna Lenza. Lenza was a consensus All-American—the second GVSU player ever to be an All-American on both teams—and she had also been named to her third straight All-GLIAC first team. This is production that’s hard to replace, but the Lakers are set up well to continue their winning ways.
The team is bringing back reigning GLIAC Pitcher of the Year Allison Lipovsky, who posted a 16-4 record and 1.53 ERA. Kaylie Rhynard is returning after missing the majority of last season with a major injury, and coach Callihan named two more players she expects to step up and have big seasons.
Teagan Shomin and Shannon Flaherty hold down the left side of the infield for the Lakers—both of them played games at shortstop and third base last year. Both played all 51 games for the Lakers last year,while also hitting over .300 and accumulating 50 hits each. Flaherty was also named an All-GLIAC Honorable Mention.
“(Shomin and Flaherty) are my left side of the infield, and from a leadership role ... those are the one(s) I am looking to,” Callihan said.
With a good mix of youth and experience, this team has plenty of potential to not only make another run at the GLIAC title but a deep NCAA Tournament run (knock on wood).
After dropping their first two contests during a double-header against McKendree on Sunday, Feb. 18, the Lakers will now face Winona State and Lewis University on Friday, Feb. 23, followed by another double-header against Illinois Springfield and Missouri University of Science and Technology on Saturday, Feb. 24.