April 20, 2013
ALLENDALE, Mich. - The Grand Valley State baseball team battled through the cold on Saturday (Apr. 20) and came away with a pair of thrilling walk-off victories against Lake Erie, including a five-run final frame in the opener. The Lakers took game one, 6-5, before coming out on top of an 11-inning affair in the nightcap, 1-0.
GVSU moves to 21-12 on the year with the sweep with a 15-5 record in the GLIAC, while Lake Erie falls to 11-24 overall and 8-14 in the conference.
Already outscoring opponents 33-9 this season in the first inning, the Lakers were at it again to open up this key GLIAC twinbill.
In the bottom of the first, three GVSU hits led to the first run of the game, as a single back up the middle by sophomore Jamie Potts brought home sophomore Kevin Zak to put the Lakers on top early, 1-0.
However, Lake Erie was able to respond in a big way in the top of the second. Two straight singles to lead off the inning, paired with a passed ball and a wild pitch put two runners in scoring position. A walk loaded the base with still nobody out, and the tying run came in on another wild pitch. A single in to right-center field brought two more runs home, and the Storm had a 3-1 lead.
The game held that way until the top of the sixth, when a walk and two singles from Lake Erie brought another run across the plate to make it 4-1.
The Storm extended the lead yet again in the top of the seventh, using two hits, a walk and a passed ball to push the lead out to 5-1.
Coming in to the bottom of the seventh, the Lakers did not have a hit since junior Giancarlo Brugnoni doubled with one out in the second inning. However, GVSU didn't allow that trend to continue.
Junior Stuart Eisler led off the bottom of the final inning with a single in to center, then moved to second on a passed ball. After a walk and a foul-out, Zak got the scoring started with an RBI single through the left side to make it a 5-2 contest. Senior Chris Rudenga then followed with a single through the other side of the infield on the first pitch he saw, bringing sophomore Mike Nadratowski in to score and make it 5-3.
After a pitching change and still with one out, Potts hit the first pitch he saw in to right field to load the bases and put the tying runs in scoring position. Sophomore Jesse Abel then came up with the biggest hit of his young Laker career, crushing a ball back up the middle that narrowly missed the pitcher and rolled in to center field to score the tying runs, as Rudenga and Zak both scored to tie the game at five. Abel moved to second and Potts moved to third when the center fielder dropped the ball.
That set the stage for sophomore Matthew Schuch, who took a 2-1 pitch and smacked it back up the middle to score Potts and cap the 6-5 comeback victory.
Rudenga and Potts each had two hits, scored and drove in one in the first game. Abel had two RBI, while Zak went 1-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.
Senior Kyle Teague had seemingly one bad inning in the second, but was solid after that. Teague worked 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits and five runs with eight strikeouts.
Senior reliever Kyle Zegarac (1-0) picked up the win while throwing only one pitch. Zegarac came on to get the last out of the top of the seventh, threw a ball out of the zone, and the Lakers threw out a runner trying to steal on the pitch to end the inning.
In the nightcap, it was stellar pitching efforts on both sides that resulted in one of the most pressure-packed games in recent memory.
Redshirt freshman Patrick Kelly battled through no run support to turn in eight shutout innings, allowing only four hits with four strikeouts, needing only 88 pitches to go eight innings.
Unfortunately, he was matched by Lake Erie's Brad Raley, who threw nine innings of shutout ball, allowing only two hits and striking out nine on 119 pitches.
For Lake Erie, however, the pitching performances disappeared when the starter left the game.
The two teams had combined for only six hits through 10.5 innings of play, with nobody crossing the plate.
The Lakers, who had two hits through the first two innings, were then held without another hit until the bottom of the 11th inning.
Deadlocked at zero, it was Eisler who again started the rally. A four-pitch lead-off walk, followed by a sacrifice bunt from Nadratowski moved the potential winning run to second. After a pitching change, senior Stephen Claypool worked the count to 3-1 before the Storm decided to intentionally put him on to set up the double play.
After a fly out to deep center field moved Eisler to third, Claypool took second base on defensive indifference and Potts then did the same as Claypool, working the count to 3-1 before intentionally being put on first to set up a force out at every base.
Rudenga then came to bat and didn't waste much time, taking an 0-1 pitch back up the middle just out of the reach of the outstretched glove of the shortstop to bring Eisler in to score, giving the Lakers the 1-0, hard-fought victory.
Senior Brad Zambron (1-2) picked up the victory in relief. Zambron came on to start the ninth inning and threw three shutout innings of relief, striking out four without allowing a hit or walk.
The only Lakers to record hits in the game were Claypool, Brugnoni and Rudenga, with Rudenga's being the game-winner.
Grand Valley State and Lake Erie will finish out the three-game series on Sunday (Apr. 21) at noon with a single nine-inning contest at the Laker Baseball Field. Live stats will again be available via GameTracker, as well as a live radio call provided by GVSU's student-run station, Whale Radio, with play-by-play by Dan Spadafora.