Lake Erie's first foray into NCAA-II Championship baseball will include an opening game against Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion Grand Valley State (Mich.), and the Storm are slated to get underway on Thursday at 12 p.m. EDT.
Six teams (Lake Erie, Grand Valley, Drury-Mo., Indianapolis, Southern Indiana, Wayne State-Mich.) are bound for USI Baseball Field in Evansville, Ind., where they will battle in double-elimination brackets. Call it the Great Lakes Championship – the six teams represent the top three each from the GLIAC and Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Lake Erie heads to the Midwest regional hosted by the University of Southern Indiana as the No. 5 seed. The Green & White will battle No. 2 seed Grand Valley – a team they played twice last week at the GLIAC Tournament – on Thursday at noon. The winner of that contest will play Friday at 8 p.m. EDT; the loser will play Friday at 12 p.m. EDT.
The tournament's No. 1 seed is Southern Indiana, a team that is 41-11 on the season and ranked No. 8 nationally by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. USI is the 2014 regular season champion of the GLVC.
The 31-20 Storm are making what is the program's first appearance at an NCAA national tournament. Lake Erie Baseball was instituted in 2002, and the Storm were a Division III program until 2009. Lake Erie's 2014 campaign has included a program-record 10-game win streak (April 12-22), a 4-0 start to league play (March 20-21) and a runner-up finish at the GLIAC Tournament (May 8-11).
LEC's 2014 season has been a flip of the script. A year ago, the Storm went 18-30, averaging 4.5 runs per game and posting a team earned-run average of 5.59. The 2014 squad has averaged 5.1 runs per game (7.0 RPG in last 10) with a program-record ERA of 3.94 and a program-record fielding percentage of .963.
The Storm lost 2-of-3 to the Grand Valley Lakers last week, but they swept GVSU, three games to none, in a home series on April 18-19. The Lakers have won 13 straight games since.
Over the last three seasons, LEC is 6-7 against the now-17-time GLIAC champions.
STORM SURGE: Lake Erie bats have produced a .767 OPS and 7.0 RPG over the team's last 10 games. That marks a stark turnaround from LEC's early-season production. Through March 16, the Storm registered a pedestrian .665 OPS while scoring just 4.2 RPG. For the season, Lake Erie has plated 5.1 RPG, an average that ranks fifth in the GLIAC and 127th (of 243) in the nation.
IRON MEN: Starting pitchers Brian Kilway (four complete games) and Brad Raley (six) have combined to toss 10 complete games this season, and as a staff the Storm have posted 12, their most since 2004. … Three position players – third baseman Zack DeCamp, second baseman Josh Hudeck and outfielder Lucas Raley – have appeared in all 51 of the team's games this season. … Kilway's complete game on Friday upped his career total to 207 innings pitched. He is one of four Storm pitchers to log 200 frames. Kilway's 159 career strikeouts rank third in LEC's record book.
DECISION MAKERS: Right-hander Brandon Grunda (4-2, seven saves) and left-hander D.J. Stastny (7-2, one save) have combined to register over one-third of the Storm's victories this season. Stastny's seven wins and Grunda's seven saves both mark new program records for Lake Erie Baseball. Grunda's seven saves are tied for the third-most in the GLIAC.
ROAD WARRIORS: Lake Erie struggled mightily on the road last season, going just 6-18 in 24 road tests. In 2014 the Storm have performed well away from home – they are a combined 21-15 in road and neutral-site games.
FROM A-TO-XENIA: First baseman Lou Peterlin played all five games last week at the GLIAC Tournament and batted .368 (7-of-19) with two doubles, two home runs and five RBIs. … LEC pitching notched a 4.19 ERA and walked just 14 batters in 43 tournament innings. … Lake Erie pitcher Brian Kilway, shortstop Sean Mathews and outfielder Lucas Raley were named to the GLIAC All-Tournament Team in Xenia. Kilway downed third-place Saginaw Valley (Mich.) with a complete-game victory on Friday. Mathews batted .333 (6-of-18) in the tournament, and Raley hit .313 (5-of-16) with two doubles, a triple and six RBIs.
RISP-Y BUSINESS: Zack DeCamp, Mathews, and Raley went a combined 8-of-17 (.471) with runners in scoring position last week. Raley is a .439 (18-of-41) batter on the season in such clutch situations. As a team, Lake Erie is batting .279 (124-of-445) with runners in scoring position.
FROM MOUND TO GROUND: Starter Brad Raley leads the LEC staff in inducing ground balls this season. The 6-foot-4 right-hander has gotten 60 percent of his batted-ball outs to find the ground. His groundball stuff has produced a team-high five double plays.
SENIOR MOMENT: Right fielder Garrett Emling is batting .349/.404/.628 (BA/OBP/SLG) over his last 48 plate appearances. Over that stretch, the Tallmadge, Ohio, native has eight extra-base hits and nine RBIs.
SPLITS-VILLE: Lake Erie is – 7-5 in neutral-site games … 9-8 vs. left-handed starters, 22-12 vs. right-handed starters … 10-6 in one-run games, 12-5 in games decided by five runs or more … 3-2 in extra-innings games … 2-2 in shutouts … 1-12 when scoring two runs or less, 30-8 when scoring three runs or more … 5-11 when allowing six runs or more … 18-5 when the Storm score first … 10-0 when leading after seven innings, 1-6 when trailing after seven innings.
RAGING ON: Lake Erie is 0-6 all-time in games played in the state of Indiana. All six of those games were against tournament-host Southern Indiana – the Storm opened their 2012 and 2013 seasons with road tests against the Screaming Eagles. … Lou Peterlin heads into regional tournament play on a five-game hit streak. Peterlin owns a .728 OPS on the year; he has collected six doubles and five home runs. … Lake Erie scored eight runs in the sixth inning of the Saturday game against Saginaw Valley (Mich.). That outburst tied a season-high for most runs in a single inning. … Aaron Lindgren needs one RBI to reach 100 for his career. … Lucas Raley is two total bases away from setting a new program record for most in a single season. His current 106 is exceeded only Ryan Rua's 107 total bases in 2010. Raley is three RBIs short of Rua's single season RBI mark (47 in 2009). He has 14 RBIs over his last nine games. … Shortstop Sean Mathews is batting .324 (12-of-37) since April 27. … Brandon Grunda heads to Evansville having allowed no runs and just five hits over his last 10 innings.