EVANSVILLE, Ind. – In a rematch of the May 11 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament finals, No. 22 (Collegiate Baseball Newspaper) Grand Valley State (Mich.) evened its season series with Lake Erie, as the Lakers downed the Storm, 9-4, in day one of the NCAA-II Midwest Region Tournament on Thursday afternoon.
But nothing is even about the spoils – the Lakers (38-11 on the season and winners of 14 straight since being swept, 3-0, by LEC on April 18-19) remain in the winners bracket of the six-team, double-elimination tournament in Evansville, Ind.; the Storm (31-21) are down to their last out and now head into a Friday noon game looking to stay alive.
That's the situation after a middle-innings surge lifted Grand Valley to the 9-4 victory on Thursday. The Lakers scored four runs in the fourth inning, two in the sixth and one in the seventh en route to the win. Making its first appearance in a national tournament contest, Lake Erie was outhit, 11-7, and a typically steady Storm defense was tagged with three errors.
GVSU right fielder Jamie Potts went 3-for-5, and seven different Laker batters drove in runs in what marked the first game of the four-day tournament that has Grand Valley seeded No. 2 and the Storm seeded No. 5.
Lake Erie threatened in the top of the second when junior designated hitter Aaron Lindgren led off the frame with a double to right. But GVSU starter Aaron Jensen – a 6-foot-6 junior who went into the contest with a season ERA of 1.95 – got two ground outs and a strikeout in and around a walk, and he escaped without allowing a run.
In the bottom of the second, a walk, a single and an error would lead to the Lakers taking a 1-0 lead. Grand Valley State would force LEC starter Brian Kilway out of the game in upping its lead to 5-0 by the end of the fourth. The Lakers hung a four-spot in that fourth inning – Kilway walked two and hit a batter in an outburst that saw GVSU collect three hits.
Meanwhile the Storm's offense was stymied by Jensen, who faced the minimum over the third, fourth and fifth innings. GVSU scored two unearned runs off reliever Russ Hogue in the sixth, and it wasn't until the seventh that Jensen pitched in any sort of a jam. In that inning, a one-out double by Garrett Emling was followed by a walk to Lou Peterlin. But Jensen extricated himself from trouble when he induced an inning-ending double-play grounder to second.
Jensen took a commanding 8-0 lead into the eighth. Two hits – a double by Dillon Van Dyne and a single by Lucas Raley – knocked out Jensen and got LEC into the GVSU bullpen. The Laker bullpen yielded three in the ninth, but Grand Valley played out a win for the 14th consecutive time since losing a 5-3 contest at Braggs Field on April 19.
For the game, Jensen allowed one run on five hits and four walks over 7-2/3 innings. He struck out five. Jamie Potts led the GVSU offense with three singles in five at-bats.
Dylan Yankle reached base three times (single, double, walk) to lead a Storm offense that has struggled until the endgame eighth and ninth innings. Brian Kilway allowed 11 base runners (five hits, five walks, one hit batter) over 3-1/3 innings. Russ Hogue, Connor Fuller, Christopher Tomshack, and Austin Previt all pitched in the game.
The Green & White will now prepare for a game on the down-side of the bracket. That contest will be at 12 p.m. EDT on Friday, and it will be against the loser of Thursday's Southern Indiana-Indianapolis game.
Notes: Aaron Lindgren's second-inning double marked his 20th extra-base hit of the season. Lindgren has 10 doubles, three doubles, and seven home runs in 2014. Heading into Thursday's tilt, the Willoughby Hills, Ohio, native ranked second on the team in slugging percentage, with a .494 mark. … Shortstop Sean Mathews registered an RBI groundout on Thursday and now has five RBIs over his last six games. … LEC's three errors in the game equaled the total number of errors committed over the team's previous four games combined. The Storm went into Thursday's action owning a program-record .963 fielding percentage. … GVSU led off 5-of-8 innings by reaching base, and the Lakers went 5-of-17 with runners in scoring position; they left 13 runners on base. LEC went 2-of-11 with runners in scoring position and is now 4-for-its-last-29 against the Lakers in RISP situations