March 31, 2012
Allendale, Mich. - The 20th-ranked Grand Valley State baseball team earned a crucial sweep of Ashland on Saturday (Mar. 31) as the Lakers took game one 1-0 before winning the nightcap 4-2. In the opener, senior Kyle Schepel became GVSU's career wins leader with the 27th victory of his career, mostly thanks to six shutout innings.
It had appeared for the second straight outing that Schepel may have a gem go by the wayside as Ashland pitcher Zach Botjer was keeping pace through four innings. With the score notched at zero, the moment of the game came in the bottom of the fifth when redshirt freshman Kevin Zak brought in the game's only run with a lead-off solo homer off the scoreboard in left-center field, his first career roundtripper.
Now staked to a lead, Schepel got two straight groundouts and a strikeout in the top of the sixth to preserve the one-run lead.
In the seventh, junior Brad Zambron came on to finish the game off for the Lakers, but got off to a rocky start with a lead-off single. After the Eagles then popped a bunt up to the third baseman while attempting to sacrifice, a fly out and strikeout ended the game to give Schepel the historic victory in the 1-0 win.
In the win, Schepel (5-1) threw six shutout innings, allowing only one hit with six strikeouts. On offense, Zak was the only Laker to cross the plate or bring a run in, finishing the game 1-for-2. Freshman Mike Nadratowski and junior Chris Rudenga each went 1-for-2 in the game, while senior Steve Anderson and sophomore Giancarlo Brugnoni both went 1-for-3.
Botjer (1-3) took the loss for the Eagles, throwing all six innings, allowing five hits, one run and two walks with five strikeouts.
Schepel now sits with a 27-4 career record and a 3.24 career ERA with 206 strikeouts and moved ahead of Joe Jablonski (2008-11) to claim the top spot on the wins list.
Another pitcher's duel appeared to form in game two. Senior Ryan Garman was on the mound for the Lakers, the first time he has faced the Eagles since throwing a no-hitter in Ashland last season. Garman got off to an equally good start in this game, retiring the first five batters he faced in the game before Ashland hit a two-out single back up the middle to end a streak of 8.2 innings of pitching for Garman without allowing a hit to Ashland.
The Lakers got on the board first in the game thanks to a sacrifice fly by senior Zach Laupp that brought freshman Jamie Potts in to score, who had led off the bottom of the third with a hit by pitch.
GVSU began pouring it on in the bottom of the fourth. Anderson led off the inning with a walk and senior Jared Cowan singled on a bloop in to shallow center field to put two runners on. After a failed sacrifice bunt attempt, Zak was again in the middle of things, hitting a clutch double in to the right field gap to bring in both runners and give the Lakers a 3-0 lead. Zak himself would come in to score after the Ashland third baseman committed an error on a ground ball that allowed freshman Mitchell Kozlowski to reach, giving GVSU a 4-0 lead.
Ashland started making a comeback in the top of the sixth against Garman, leading off the frame with a single before a strikeout and a walk to put two on. Starting Eagle pitcher Shayne Herold then moved in to the final spot of the batting order as a pinch-hitter and hit an RBI single in to left field to get the Eagles on the board after over 13 innings without a run on the day. Then, on a pop-up along the first base line just behind the bag, a Laker fielding error allowed the ball to drop and score a second run to cut the lead to 4-2.
Zambron, who came on in the sixth, came back out in the seventh to try and earn his second save of the day and he came up clutch. Zambron struck out the lead-off batter but the hitter reached when the throw down to first to complete the strikeout was in the dirt and got past the fielder. After a fly out to left field for the first official out, a fielding error behind the bag at third put runners on second and third with one out. Zambron came up huge, however, striking out the final two hitters to save the 4-2 win for the Lakers.
Garman (3-2) got the victory for the Lakers, working 5.1 innings and allowing four hits and one earned with nine strikeouts. Zambron racked up three strikeouts in 1.1 innings of relief with no hits allowed for his second save of the day and fourth of the season. The two saves give him 14 for his career, putting him in third place all-time on the GVSU career saves list.
Zak led the way again offensively, going 1-for-3 with one run scored and two RBI. Laupp also had an RBI, while Nadratowski, Anderson and Cowan each went 1-for-2.
Herold (1-1) took the loss for Ashland, pitching all six innings, allowing four hits, four runs (three earned) and one walk with three strikeouts. Giancarlo Saia led the way at the plate, going 2-for-4.
The pair of victories moves GVSU to 13-7 overall with a 3-3 mark in the GLIAC. Ashland falls to 12-10 on the season with a 4-4 record in the GLIAC.
The same two teams will face off on Sunday (Apr. 1) for another doubleheader, slated to begin at noon at the Laker Baseball Field. Both games will be available via GameTracker as well as through live audio, accessible on the spring sports radio schedule and at whaleradio.org.