Pete Barrows

Sports Journalist —

Archive for March 2014

Gevaart’s gem highlights GVSU split at Walsh

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Lakers return to diamond after three-week break

 Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

At 10 a.m. Sunday morning, an inch of snow coated the Walsh University softball field. The outfield was waterlogged with leveed runoff, a breeze brought a chill to infield, but for the first time since March 8, the Grand Valley State University softball team returned to the dirt — and by 2 p.m. in the afternoon, morning winter storm be damned, the teams played ball.

As rays of sun fell upon the dugout on a day that transformed into a vague impression of spring, the Lakers split an afternoon twinbill with Walsh University — a 3-2 loss in game one and a 1-0 win in game two.

Some rust from a three-week hiatus was left for the Lakers to melt off with the last piles of lingering snow, but for the day, simply playing outside was progress.

“The conditions were good, not ideal,” senior third baseman Miranda Cleary said. “The outfield was a little damp, it was a little chilly, but it felt great to get finally back to it. Skill wise, there wasn’t too much rust for us, but it’s good for us to start getting back in the swing of things.”

Protected by a rain tarp, the Walsh field was cleared of an inclement rain and ice cocktail and then swept clean of snow with a band of snow blowers and shovels. The day before Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, the game wouldn’t be stopped.

Neither would GVSU junior starting pitcher Lauren Gevaart.

The teams were tied 2-2 entering the bottom of the seventh inning of game one, but Walsh scored on a squeeze bunt and walked-off with the win, although GVSU didn’t score again all afternoon.

Gevaart pitched a three-hit complete-game shutout in game two, and the Lakers — after allowing a two-run, three-error inning in game one that gave Walsh an early lead — did not record a single fielding error in the rematch.

“Sometimes when I get behind in the count, I struggle, but I stayed ahead, which keeps the other team off balance, me in control and our defense in the game,” Gevaart said. “We didn’t hit great as a team, but we still played really solid defense.

“In my start, there were no errors, the defense backed me up the whole game, and I felt really confident out on the mound.”

GVSU’s hits were, like the games played this season, few and far between for stretches on Sunday, but they were timely like a combined effort of Walsh’s ground crew and cooperating afternoon weather.

Senior first baseman Tonya Calkins hit in both runs in game one with an RBI double to tie the score, but it was Cleary who knocked in the winning score with an RBI ground-out to third that scored freshman second baseman Jenna Lenza in the first inning of game two.

“Defense tends to win games, and I thought we improved quite a bit in that regard from the first game to the second,” GVSU coach Doc Woods said. “Lauren (Gevaart) had a real nice start with lots of strikeouts and worked out of some jams, we got to see a different pitcher for a change, and a good one — Casi Rohr pitched both games — and the hitting will continue to come.

“We’re a good offensive team and got what we needed today, but as we start playing more games in April, figure out how to get girls in scoring position more and don’t have a three-week break again, I think we’ll start hitting even better.”

GVSU (11-4) will play again Monday with a 10 a.m. doubleheader scheduled against Lake Erie College (3-10).

To read the original post “Gevaart’s gem highlights GVSU split at Walsh”, click here at the Lanthorn online.


Written by peterdbarrows

March 30, 2014 at 5:04 am

Defending champs scrimmage at Spring Arbor

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GVSU soccer team shows defensive potential in victory

Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports EditorGVL/Archive Bo AndersonKatie Klunder (2), and Katie Bounds (6)

The defending national champion Grand Valley State University soccer team took the pitch for just the second time this spring on Saturday afternoon with a trio of 30-minute scrimmages against Spring Arbor University, and returned home with a 1-0 victory.

Although the score and last season’s title results count for little as the Lakers gear up for another campaign.

“Nobody on this roster, outside of the coaching staff, has come back in the offseason as a national champion, and we’ll have to fight complacency,” GVSU coach Dave Dilanni said. “The foundation of next fall – the work, the sweat, the sacrifice — is going to come right now, and we all have to understand that to be able to grow.

“Last year’s done, and that national championship trophy is already in our trophy case. That trophy we want to go after next season is still out there for anyone to take.”

Starters Kayla Kimble, Tayler Ward, Taylor Callen and Abbey Miller as well as Autumn Jacobs, Kelsey Fiscus, Shelby Humphries, Sam Decker have all graduated from last year’s team, and leave a void along the Lakers’ last line of defense.

Sophomore forward Erika Bradfield’s early injury has hampered GVSU, too, as has a nicked-up time share in net between senior Andrea Strauss and redshirt sophomore Holly Ellerbroek.

Accounting for injuries and lost seniors, the Lakers are down numbers until a seven-member freshman class provides reinforcement in the fall.

They are currently working with a roster of 15 field players, yet despite the attrition, GVSU soccer has seemingly picked up right where it left off, and has not allowed a single goal this spring.

“We bring back more firepower on offense than defense, but our defending is ahead of our attacking right now, the same as last year,” Dilanni said. “It’s harder to teach and gel offense, but we are getting chances, even if we’re not finishing them.

“The big question for us in the spring, especially being short-handed the way we are, even more than ‘are we winning games?’ or are ‘are we scoring goals?’ is ‘are we getting better everyday?’

“We have a talented group, but the spring is a time for kids to improve as individuals more than as a team. The hope is that you’re a better player in the spring than in the previous fall, especially the less-experienced kids, and we’re still working on figuring out who we can count on in the fall.”

On defense, sophomore Clare Carlson will take up a right back position, senior Alyssa Wesley will move inside to center back with fellow senior Juane Odendaal, and junior Katy Woolley will resume her spot on the Laker defense.

In two games this season, the unit has played and progressed without missing a beat.

“We knew that we were going to have a little less experience in the back, so we’ve really focused on getting familiar with each other, communicating and building a bond so that we’re able to lead this team out of the back,” Woolley said. “That really helps, I think, cycling into games just as strong as we’ve been in years past.”

Up front, junior Katie Klunder, sophomore Marti Corby and senior Charlie Socia will all return to comprise last season’s midfield, while senior Jenny Shaba, junior Katie Bounds, red shirt sophomore Olivia Emery and sophomore Kendra Stauffer will once again provide their services to GVSU’s attack.

“I think the back line is still the teams strongest line, as it was last year, but the offense has a lot of promise,” Wesley said. “As the spring season goes on, we’ll continue to work on communicating up top, staying organized as a team, moving the ball efficiently, and getting extra goals so we can secure wins for our team.”

GVSU will play again Friday against Western Michigan University, and will continue to build into the fall where there will be a new trophy at stake.

To read the original post “Defending champs scrimmage at Spring Arbor”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

March 30, 2014 at 4:57 am

The curious career of Lauren Gevaart

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Former phenom joins GVSU after intriguing hiatus

Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports EditorGVL / Hannah MicoHeather Gevaart

A comb through the 2014 Grand Valley State University softball team roster reveals one name that is difficult to place — Lauren Gevaart. A junior pitcher new to the team, there’s no record of a transfer or of any varsity collegiate softball experience associated with her name.

Field of Dreams

It’s as though she appeared from the fields of Allendale, where the cornstalks grow tall.

A deeper glance into Gevaart’s player bio produces proof that she just so happens to be one of the most accomplished prep pitchers to rise up through the Michigan softball ranks in the last decade and has studied athletic training at GVSU since 2011.

So when Gevaart stepped into GVSU softball coach Doug Woods’ classroom last semester, it isn’t hard to imagine a mystical voice echoing in through the concrete slab walls whispering, “If you ask her, she will play,” urging him to take a chance.

“Lauren basically said she was done with softball in high school,” Woods said. “Everybody said, ‘Oh, she’s coming to Grand Valley; you have to get a hold of her!’ But as far as I was concerned, she had already made her decision. I wasn’t going to bother her.”

That was until at a softball tournament last summer when Woods was alerted that Gevaart had returned to the mound for casual play with a compilation of NCAA Division I talents from across the state on a team sponsored by Hooters. Maybe Gevaart had been reminded of all that once was good with softball — or that it could be again.

Maybe it was just time. Either way, it was a big chance for Woods, and an unexpected one at that.

“It just so happens that she was in my athletic training class that I was teaching, and so we had a conversation,” Woods said. “I asked her if she played last summer, she said yes. I asked her if she liked it, she said yeah, it was sort of fun.

“A couple weeks went by, and I brought up softball again. I asked her if we got in a bind, if she could throw a few innings for us.

“She said that it’d take her a while to get ready. I said I bet she could do right now, and the next Monday, she said she wanted to play.”

The Natural

Look even deeper into Gevaart’s transcript, and her forgotten career begins to unfold like a piece of fictionalized cinema. The stats alone are staggering.

After an injury-marred freshman campaign at Mattawan High School in 2008, she returned to the mound in 2009 to accumulate a 13-3 record with 132 strikeouts to 16 walks in 101.1 innings pitched to go along with a 1.24 earned run average (ERA).

The next season, she began 11-0 with 126 strikeouts to three walks in 67 innings pitched, and she did not allow a single earned run. A stress fracture in her right arm forced her to first base, although she was still named to the Division I all-state team at the conclusion of the season.

As a senior, Gevaart went 20-3 with 216 strikeouts to just 16 walks in 128 innings pitched, while leading her team all the way to the Division I state championship game.

For her career, Gevaart compiled a 49-6 career record in three years of varsity softball at MHS with 525 total strikeouts to 40 walks, a rate of 13.13 punch-outs to every base on balls surrendered. She averaged 12.41 strikeouts per seven innings, batted .350 for her career, was named all-conference, district and region all three years, and was a runner-up to Sara Driesenga — currently an All-Big Ten pitcher at the University of Michigan — as a senior in Michigan’s Miss Softball Pitcher of the Year voting.

Gevaart’s high school coaches, Alicia Smith and Teri Clark, remarked, “What could have her numbers been if she was healthy and we pitched her as much as we could have?” Portage Central High School softball coach Bernie Christopher had cast his vote for Miss Softball Pitcher for Gevaart instead of Driesenga and commented that “Teams win or lose with pitching in close games, and I don’t think Mattawan wins the state championship the way that they did without Lauren.”

Her high school teammates — from Hanne Stuedemann, now a second baseman at Ball State University, to Alyssa McBride, a successful shortstop at Michigan State University, to Loren Nagy, a promising young catcher at Western Michigan University, to Stacy Thompson, a pitcher at Ferris State University, to Emily McCarty, an outfielder at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, to Allie Havers, a freshman basketball player at the University of Nebraska who recently scored 17 points in a Big Ten tournament game — have all made their mark on the next level.

She was as talented as any of them, received an official offer and took an official visit “as a vacation,” but at the time, it wasn’t for her.

“I thought a long time about it, because logically, playing is what I felt I should do and what I was supposed to do, but I didn’t see myself playing, and I never saw myself super happy with it,” Gevaart said. “I had been doing it for so long, and I needed a break.”

Like Roy Hobbs before her, people might have said, “There goes Lauren Gevaart, the best there ever was in this game,” as she walked down the street, but it wasn’t to be; Gevaart decided to hang up her glove by choice and walked away healthy and on top to focus on other aims.12597_softballgevaart_rgbp

For the love of the game

Six mound appearances into her career at GVSU, Gevaart’s return to the diamond has been every bit as triumphant as Shoeless Joe Jackson’s, played by Ray Liotta in the film “Field of Dreams,” and Roy Hobbs’s, played by Robert Redford in “The Natural.”

Filling in for now-graduated Hannah Santora, Gevaart has paired with sophomore star Sara Andrasik to form a potent 1-2-power-punch atop the Laker pitching staff. The sample size is small and has been stiffed by inclement weather, but the results, so far, are promising.

“The talent has always been there, but I think she wanted to give it a try for one year to say that she played college softball,” Woods said. “Her heart’s in it, and she’s playing for the right reasons. We’re very pleased to have her playing, and I think we’re as excited to have her play as she is to play this year.”

In 30 innings pitched, Gevaart has used a potent rise ball, a recently added drop ball and change-up, and a stringent focus to avoid walks and get ahead in the count. She is 3-0 and has racked up 42 strikeouts to seven walks, a rate of six strikeouts to every walk and a rate of 9.8 Ks every seven innings.

A rate higher even than Jenn Mackson’s average of 9.45 strikeouts per seven innings in 2002, when she blazed the current GVSUsingle-season strikeout record (317 in 235.1 innings pitched).

“It was great working with Hannah Santora last year, but Lauren is an amazing pitcher, too,” Andrasik said. “I’ve gotten to work with her a lot this year, and I think we make for a good combo. We didn’t know she was coming on the team until late last semester, but I think she has been a great asset and has fit in really well.”

More than any other character in baseball film lore, however, perhaps the one the Lakers would prefer Gevaart to resemble most is Billy Chapel, played by Kevin Costner in ‘For the Love of the Game’, a character that pitches a perfect game in the final start of his career.

Prior to this season, Gevaart’s last official start came on June 18, 2011 on Diamond 3 of the Bailey Park Flannery Sports Complex. It was a a 13-strikeout, three-walk, complete-game, no-hitter — just the 13th no-hitter in MHSSA title game history — that secured the first Mattawan state championship in any sanctioned sport.

A start just as special as her appearance with the youth team from Mattawan District 15 back in 2006 that traveled all the way to Portland, Ore., to become the first team from Michigan to win a Little League World Series. Just as special as each one of her district, regional and conference championship starts — she approaches every game the same.

“My mindset doesn’t change from game to game, and I think when it gets time to pitch on a bigger stage, I’ll pitch it the same way that I approach every other game; like it could be the last game I ever pitch,” Gevaart said. “When your pitcher is calm, everyone else stays calm. When your pitcher gets worked up, everyone else gets worked up.”

A good tactic, as every start she makes — considering limiting weather, an injury-riddled past, an arm two years away from the game and a self-imposed shelf life — really could be her last.

At the conclusion of this season, Gevaart will retire once again to pursue her career in athletic training; she already has an internship lined up. Woods, of course, will retire, as well. With a swan song national championship in mind and a pitching staff foreseeably equipped to pursue it, the cinema of Gevaart’s curious career arc through softball isn’t quite ready for credits yet.

“I feel old sometimes, but after two years, it was time to come back,” Gevaart said. “I missed being a part of a team, having girls to play with that I can rely on all of the time, and more than the softball, and I have that here.

“I didn’t know a lot of the girls from last year, but the girls that have returned comprise a really strong core; I think it’s a strong team again. It was a little rocky at times in Florida, but I think as long as we play like we are capable of playing, we will do really well and can potentially make another deep run.”

To read the original post “The curious career of Lauren Gevaart”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

March 27, 2014 at 7:12 pm

GV softball team cancels 13th game of season

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Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

 Every spring for 55 years, Major League Baseball broadcaster Ernie Harwell would open each season reciting a stanza known as the “Song of the Turtle.”

“For, lo, the winter is past,” the poem begins. If only, for the sake of the Grand Valley State University softball team left patiently waiting inside, it held true.

In accordance to the lingering residual affects of one of the harshest Michigan winters in decades, the Lakers have already been forced to cancel 13 games this season and have not played a single inning of softball since returning home from a spring trip to Florida more than two weeks ago.

“We had seasons that have started with a tough couple of first two weeks, and eventually if we get going here, we’ll be alright, but it’s still so cold,” GVSU head coach Doug Woods said. “We’ve shoveled snow on our field three times now this season in hopes of getting out to play.

“Usually teams get blisters from taking batting practice. We get them from using shovels.”

There is a chance that a handful of the postponed games could be made up later in the season, although with Michigan weather in mind, there’s also a chance there could be more cancellations still to come.

Barring conditions, GVSU (11-4) will travel to Canton, Ohio, to return to the diamond at 1 p.m. Saturday with a doubleheader against Walsh University.

The Lakers are also scheduled to extend the road trip with a twinbill against Northwood University on Sunday, and if all goes according to plan, the season will resume as originally scheduled from there.

“This is my sixth year here, and this is the most difficult start to the spring season that I’ve seen,” GVSU Assistant Sports Information Director DJ Foster said. “The girls played indoors in late February, they played almost a dozen games down in Florida in early March and played well, but they haven’t played again since.

“There is going to be three weeks in between games – it feels like months ago – and they haven’t practiced outside at all. That’s not unique to them – a lot of the teams in the Midwest haven’t gotten outside, either – but it makes it tough to bounce back from long absences of play.”

In most seasons, the Lakers play in the range of 45 to 50 games in the regular season, although there have been years where there hasn’t been a single cancellation.

As it stands for now, GVSU will play in the range of 30 to 35 contests before entering postseason play, and it won’t play at home until a doubleheader against Wayne State University on April 11.

The shortened season aside, the Lakers continue to plug through daily practice sessions inside the Kelly Family Sports Center.

Aspirations of returning to the NCAA Division II World Series tournament in Woods’s final season, like the snow, have not fully melted away as the team waits for flowers to appear on the Earth, the singing of birds and the voice of the turtle to be heard, and for shovels to be replaced, once and for all, with bats.

“There’s nothing you can do about the weather, but you try to work through it the best that you can, and stay sharp by your practices – that’ll be especially important this season,” Woods said. “On offense, we’ve done a lot of hitting, and we’ve also gone off our live pitching in the cages to keep the pitchers working, too. The defensive end might be a little more of a struggle because you don’t get into game situations much, but we try to simulate all of it the best that we can, even if it’s not quite the same indoors.

“As for the schedule, this team is certainly going to appreciate home games more when we get them, but none of our objectives change; every game is still important. The more games you play, your skills should improve, and we’re not going to have that many games this year to work with, but to be successful, you always have to make every trip, every game, every throw and every swing you do get count. That’s our focus everyday.”

To read the original post “GV softball team cancels 13th game of season”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

March 23, 2014 at 7:03 pm

The Legend of Doc Woods

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Softball coach to retire after 38 years at GVSU

Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

An attendant rolls a toothpick between his teeth as he patiently waits in the room lodged between the Lanthorn office and the S.O.C. that resembles a fishbowl, drifting on sound and casting into static.

In the room with one window, one door coated in indie band bumper stickers and one office chair hunkered in front of a radio soundboard, the attendant waits and wades through WCKS Whale student radio liners aired between innings of softball color commentary and play-by-play.

As he drifts, head bobbing, he is pulled from his seat and a passing glance as an emphatic call floats in all the way from the Grand Valley State University softball field, across parking lot pavement, unknowingly past intermingled students in line at the lobby coffee shop and in through a pair of rubber headphones on a lazy Friday afternoon in April:

“There’s a fly into service, it might fall for a hit…NO! Doug Woods gets his 800th career victory at Grand Valley State with a 4-2 victory over the Ohio Dominican Panthers!”GV / Emily Frye   Head Coach Doug Woods talking to his team before practice

Back at the field tucked in behind the Kelly Family Sports Center, GVSU softball coach Doug “Doc” Woods has secured his place in Laker lore.

Only 16 coaches in NCAA Division II history have ever crossed the 800-win threshold, yet the man — dressed in a GVSU polo tucked into his trousers, a pair of oval glasses at the end of his nose and hair flecked with gray tucked underneath a black “GV” hat — arising from the dugout for a curtain call appears much less a grizzled manager and much more a gentle, fatherly fisherman humbly displaying a long-awaited catch.

After 38 years at GVSU and 24 as the institution’s softball coach, Woods will retire upon the completion of the 2014 season this spring — leaving more time to fish — as one of the most accomplished coaches in Division II history and an indelible cornerstone of the Laker athletic program.

Although when Doc was hired on as a head athletic trainer in 1976, few at GVSU, perhaps not even Doc, could have known what had been set in motion the moment he’d been reeled aboard.

“I went to school with a kid at Toledo who was hired on with the athletic department of this school up in Michigan, and I jokingly told him ‘when you hire a full-time athletic trainer, let me know,’” he said. “He did, and that’s how I ended up here, but when I started as an athletic trainer, I had no idea whatsoever that I would drift into the coaching ranks.”

For 22 years, Woods operated as the head athletic trainer at GVSU and affectionately took on the nickname “Doc,” but in 1991, after a string of three different part-time interim softball coaches in three years, the narrative shifted for both Woods and GVSU.

Woods had been a pitcher in high school — “not a good one,” but a pitcher — so when the opportunity arose to pitch for an expanded role in the expanding program, he never hesitated.

“There wasn’t much stability in the softball program and to be quite honest, I was tired of covering spring football by that time,” Woods said. “So I told the AD, Mike Kovalchik at the time, I said, ‘Hey Mike, I can coach that sport.’ He sort of laughed, but the next day he came and said, ‘Hey, can you do it for one year?’ and I said yeah.

“That became 24 years.”

For eight seasons from 1991 to 1999, Woods operated in a dual-role as head athletic trainer and head softball coach, but throughout the first decade of his tenure as a skipper, there were still few at GVSU who could have realized the magnitude of the impact Woods would have on the program.

Especially after his very first game at the helm. Up early, Woods pulled a ‘Major League Baseball’ tact and traded his starting pitcher with his closer to get out of a jam. His closer promptly gave up a double and triple, and GVSU lost the game.

“Oh good golly, there was a learning curve,” Woods said. “I realized then that with pitching and a lot of other aspects that this wasn’t quite the same game as baseball, and it’s taken time to learn it all.

“That said, I think we had players in the program that were enjoying playing and enjoying being with the sport, we did not have a big attrition rate with players leaving. Then we did start winning a little bit, and that always helps.”

Woods entered his 24th and final season 870 wins later with a 69.2 winning percentage and two World Series appearances — a second-place finish in 2002 and a third-place finish in 2013. Only Joan Bond, GVSU’s volleyball coach of 26 years, has had a longer tenure with the Lakers.

From the time he started at Grand Valley State College, a school of around 6,000 students, under the direction of Arend Lubbers,GVSU’s ascension has been well documented. Today, more than 24,000 students are enrolled in the university, and the Laker softball squad is ranked No. 3 in the nation.

“I’ve enjoyed my career at GVSU, and I’ve enjoyed seeing the growth of the school and all of the changes going in a positive direction,” Woods said. “You hope for it, and at that time President Lubbers, a great visionary, I’m sure he had a gleam in his eye that the school would get to there as I had — that the softball program would continue to grow — but you never could have expected it to be what it is today.”

What’s been less documented is Woods’ role in GVSU’s rise.

When current athletic director Tim Selgo was hired, it was Doc who placed the call.

“I’m here at Grand Valley in large part because of Doug,” Selgo said. “I signed on with Toledo in April of 1976 on a basketball scholarship. That summer, I attended orientation and I met the trainer of the basketball program at the time and it was Doug Woods. Then when I got there as a student in the fall, we had this other guy as our trainer.

“I remember asking ‘what happened to the guy with the glasses?’ and they said he went to be a head trainer at a school up in Michigan. Low and behold, 20 years later, Doug was on the search committee to find an AD when I got hired, and he’s the one that placed a call to me to ask me if I’d be interested. Without that call, who knows, I might not have been here, and this has been such a great run for me and my family.

“I owe that to Doug.”

When Jenn Mackson, the most accomplished pitcher in GVSU and GLIAC softball history, was scouting for schools, it was Woods who cast a line.

“I wasn’t really recruited all that much, and Doc had seen me at a tournament, I guess, and he wanted me to come out for a visit,” Mackson said. “I honestly didn’t know anything about Grand Valley, not even the name, but my parents said I should at least go out to look and see. Doc was the reason that I came.

“When I got there, he was very welcoming and such a genuine person. The campus added to that, but he had a lot of belief in me as a pitcher and had me convinced.”

When Katie Martin, the most accomplished hitter in GVSU and GLIAC softball history, needed a little reassurance on her school selection, Doc made an appearance.

“I played field hockey in high school, and he came to one of my games before he signed for me,” Martin said. “Here he is in the midst of recruiting season, coming to watch a sport I was never going to play in college, and I thought that was really special. I’m sure he had his reasons, but it made an impact on me right away.

“He cared.”

Perhaps fate defines Woods’ career, and everything fell into place exactly as it was intended like a feather in the breeze in a Tom Hanks flick. Although, Doc’s legacy was not chiseled out by accident or defined by only one of the many hats that he’s worn.

Woods — a recruiter well-known for not only his knack for discovering good athletes, but also good people — has often predicated success on chemistry.

A third-base coach in every game he’s coached, Woods would mutter an occasional exclamatory like “fiddle farts” after an error to keep the game light; Doc had a feel for the moment and knew who needed what coaching when.

In the dugout, Woods was never found without a cherry cough drop in his mouth and would gladly share them with words of wisdom lovingly known as “Docisms” if need be.

Words like “if God wanted you out after midnight, he’d have put a headlight on your forehead.”

Woods fed his team with pie and ice cream after big games and doled out hugs after triumphs and defeats. He has been a father figure to many, and a father figure that cared.

“Doc is an incredible coach, person, and he exemplifies all that is GVSU softball,” Mackson said. “He knows how to motivate, he knew what would light a fire under us, he’s great at reading people and recruiting, he’s truly passionate for the game and is more than just a coach — he’s a father figure for everyone.

“He cares about your softball, but even more about your wok in the classroom, your real life, and it’s genuine. He’s so supportive of everything you do and wants you to be successful, which makes you want to work that much harder.”

What’s next for Doc and Linda, his wife of 43 years, remains to be seen, although for the first time in nearly a quarter century, his summer won’t be filled with weekend recruiting visits. He will return to teach again the next two years as a member of the athletic training program faculty, but he promises not to interfere with softball from afar.

For now, he’s content to focus on the season at hand, as is his team.

“This is Doc’s final season, and we want to make it a good one for him, but at the same time, we have to stay focused and keep playing our best,” sophomore ace Sara Andrasik said. “He’ll be missed, but we know the bar Doc has set, and we’ll work to keep his legacy going this season and beyond.”

Of all the accomplishments Doc has achieved during his tenure, not included in the list is an NCAA World Series title, and a swan song title run to cap a fairy tale career isn’t a requisite conclusion to cement his legacy.

Then again, maybe it was fate that Woods traveled along a pipeline from Toledo, recruited some of the best administrative and student-athlete talent in program history, coached storied teams and redefined a softball program stride for stride with a growing school.

Maybe it was fate that yours truly got called in on that April 13th, Friday afternoon to record a softball broadcast with no expectations — and ended up being privy to Woods’ 800th win.

And as bittersweet as the retirement is, maybe it’s just another defining instance of an individual that was not only in the right place at the right time, but the right person for the job.

That’s the legend of Doc Woods.

“I’m going to miss the college students — they keep you young, even when you get into your sixties — and I’ll miss the day-to-day relationships with the players,” he said. “I missed those relationships when I moved on from athletic training, and I’ll miss them just the same moving on from softball, but it’s time.

“As much as I will miss it, it’s time, I can see that, and I like to think I made my time here count. I hope they would say that Doc, he cared about his players in the program and tried to help them as much as he could, both on and off the field, during his time here, and even though I won’t be around to coach after this year, that doesn’t mean I won’t be watching.”

To read the original post “The Legend of Doc Woods”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

March 20, 2014 at 7:30 am

Timely hitting leads to split for GV baseball

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Lakers blast Mercyhurst 9-4 but lose late to TNU 4-3

Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

In the game of baseball, a sport where every step along the base path counts the same — walk or jog, as long as the trip ends up back at home in a run — it’s not always where a team puts its hits, but where it doesn’t.

For instance, with no outs and none on in the bottom of the second inning of the first game of a double-header hosted in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday afternoon, senior slugger Giancarlo Brugnoni stepped to the plate for the No. 11 ranked Grand Valley State University baseball team.

Five pitches later, Brugnoni found his way to first with a walk.12507_kevin_zak_baseball_rgbo

“The whole season so far, we’ve done a very good job of scoring early,” he said. “Through the first five innings, we’re destroying things and did so in both games Saturday, but we tapered off toward the end. When we get on a roll as a team, we’re very efficient, but if we can create or sustain those rolls more frequently, we’d be even more dangerous.”

Senior Taylor Banks followed with a single to center to push Brugnoni to second, before junior Aaron Overbeck fired a three-run shot over the left-field gate to break the 0-0 tie. Banks, Brugoni and Overbeck all reached base differently, although each scored a run apiece in the sequence.

Senior Ariel Aracena-Sanchez continued the second-inning stretch by reaching base on balls, as Brugnoni had before him, and then swiped second on a steal. Freshman Joel Schipper and Aracena-Sanchez then both advanced on a wild pitch, and Schipper, following Aracena-Sanchez’s lead, stole a base of his own to set the stage.

With runners on second and third, junior Mike Nadratowski singled through a right-field gap to score Aracena-Sanchez, and the cycle began again. Junior leadoff hitter Jesse Abel walked, Nadratowski advanced to second, Brugnoni singled to right center to score two more runs, and junior Jamie Potts singled to right center to score another run and advance Brugnoni, who scored an unearned run a batter later off another errant throw.

The Lakers ran cyclically, from walk-to-hit to steal-to-score, to produce eight runs along an assembly line of production and finished as it had begun. With Brugnoni. With a glance of the bigger overarching picture in mind. With the right hits in the right places by the right people at the right time.

“I don’t know if it’s a mindset that we have to go out there to score early, but we need to change that mindset from ‘we put up eight runs, that’s a good start and lead to play with’ to ‘we put up eight runs, now lets try to put up eight more runs,‘” he said. “We’ve been doing a good job of scoring, have won our close games and haven’t gotten comfortable or complacent late in games, but we just need to keep scoring often.

“The ball got hung up in the air a bit in the bigger park, but we hit well the entire trip despite; the trick was the timing. In the first game, we got our hits with men in scoring position. In the second game, we missed hits with guys on and got hits when it really didn’t matter.”

Mercyhurst University (8-4) compiled a run of its own and rallied with four runs in the sixth inning, but the damage was already done. GVSU used its early eight-run second inning to take control of the game early, and a stout stable of arms late to lockdown the victory.

The Lakers took the opening matchup 9-4, and starter Patrick Kelly was awarded with his first win of the season after allowing only six hits in seven innings of work. Potts and Nadratowski each had two hits and an RBI in the game, while Schipper drew three walks of the 10 that GVSU had as a team.

“We’ve done a nice job all year of getting out on top of teams, which gives us a nice edge, and hopefully we can keep that up, but we need to be able to stretch those leads, too,” Potts said. “The second game, we swung our bats well again, but the ball just didn’t fall our way. That was tough, but that’s how baseball goes sometimes.”

Later Saturday evening, another instance of the ‘it’s not where you put your hits, it’s where you don’t’ ideology came into play, only this time the phrase took on a different embodiment for the Lakers.

GVSU again scored early, as it has for most of the early season, and outhit host Trevecca Nazarene (16-3) 11-7, but it lost the nightcap 4-3 after nine innings of closely-contested play.

Junior Kevin Zak started the scoring in the first inning with an RBI single to push Abel home, but the Laker lead didn’t last as it had a game prior. Trevecca Nazarene took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third with an RBI triple-sacrifice fly combination, and then extended the lead to a 3-1 advantage with another sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth.

Potts dug out a single in the top of the fifth, and with the assistance of a left-center single by senior Chris Ripple and a groundball fired through the left infield gap by Schipper, helped GVSU get a run back. Then with two outs gone, Brugnoni launched a towering solo home run shot, his fifth of the year, to square the game 3-3.

The tie score held until the bottom of the ninth, but this time, it was Trevecca Nazarene that took advantage of a lead-off walk. A single in to right-center field brought the winning run home and provided the Trojans with a walk-off victory.

“Baseball is a very tough sport to stay hot all season in,” coach Jamie Detillion said. “We do our best in practice to prepare our kids to have success in games, which we’ve seen some of, but sustaining that success is the challenge. Abel and Brugnoni have been very productive and steady thus far, as have been Potts, Overbeck and Kevin Zak, but stats don’t always tell the whole story.

“I feel we have a handful of other kids who will also be able to break out at some point – I really like our depth – and we’ll ride those hands as they come.”

Junior starter Aaron Jensen (2-2) used just 100 pitches to record a two-strikeout, seven-hit outing of work in eight innings, but he took the narrow loss on the mound. The offense was again fueled by Potts, who went 3-for-4 with a run scored, Brugnoni, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Abel, who also went 2-for-4 with a run scored.

The Lakers (9-5) will return north to embark on the GLIAC season with a twin-bill against Hillsdale College (2-12) scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Davenport University’s indoor facility. GVSU will then host Wayne State University (11-4) for a three-game stand at the same venue beginning 4 p.m. Saturday.

“We have five close losses, all to good teams, at this point in the season,” Detillion said. “We’ve remained competitive, but we need to minimize mistakes as a team in order to make the strides we need to make to become a championship caliber team. It should be a pretty big week with five conference games scheduled, so hopefully we’re prepared to go out and take care of business.”

To read the original post “Timely hitting leads to split for GV baseball”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

March 17, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Freshman electrifies GVSU in leadoff spot

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Lenza plays second, bats first and teams up with Taylor to form potent 1-2 punch

Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

Peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs, Butch and Sundance, ballparks and hotdogs, bat and ball, ‘Sweet’ Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammel; some things are better in pairs. A truth that every skipper – from Sparky Anderson to Jonas Grumby to Jim Leyland to Margie Wright to Mike Candrea – worth his or her salt is privy to.

A truth that Grand Valley State University softball skipper of 870 career wins and 24 years, coach Doug ‘Doc’ Woods, was forced to come to terms with this season when, for the first time in four years, his team began its campaign without the services of now graduated second baseman Kayleigh Bertram and leadoff hitter Nellie Kosola. Courtesy / GV Sports Info Freshman Jenna Lenza

“That’s all just part of the game,” Woods said. “Players come and go – I’ve seen a lot of them come through during my time here – and for every hole left vacant, there’s an opportunity for someone new to fill it.”

Bertram finished her career at GVSU fourth in career doubles (43), sixth in home runs (20), eighth in total bases (321), ninth in at-bats (651), hits (216), runs (125), and RBI (121). She started 54 games at second for the Laker squad that finished third in the nation in 2013 and paced the center of the infield with 120 put-outs, 61 assists, a .968 fielding percentage, four double-plays and only six errors.

Kosola also ranks in a variety of GVSU single-season and career record boards, as well as several GLIAC lists. She is third inGLIAC history in career triples (20), fifth in runs scored (172), seventh in hits (271) and at-bats (697), and ninth in batting average (.389). Her 57 runs scored in 2013 are tied for ninth most in a single season in GLIAC history, and in many terms, she’s the finest leadoff batter the Lakers have ever known.

To replace just one would be daunting task for anyone, let alone a freshman, but indirectly, that’s precisely what incomer Jenna Lenza has been tasked to do. And just like a pair of BOGO shoes purchased at Payless, through the first 15 games of spring play, Lenza has worn and filled both roles left to her without missing a step.

“I played second for many years and a lot of travel ball in the summer, so I feel like I had a lot of experience coming in,” Lenza said. “Of course I was nervous, especially in my first games, but I think I was ready.”

Lenza didn’t waste any time to prove it, either. In her first official collegiate at-bat, she knocked out a solo home run to left field. The lead didn’t last and GVSU dropped the decision 6-5 to Winona State University, although she finished her first career start 4-for-4 from the plate with an RBI and three runs scored.

In her young career that has spanned a four-game trip to Chicago, an 11-game spring break trip in Florida and 53 plate appearances, Lenza is fourth on the team in RBI (12) and on-base percentage (.441), third in batting average (.415) and total bases (36), tied for third in home runs (2), second in hits (22) and slugging percentage (.679), tied for second in steals (one swipe on one attempt) and leads all Lakers with 19 runs scored.

The sample size of 15 games is slight, but extrapolated to 200 at-bats (Kosola 207 in 2012 and 188 in 2013), Lenza is on pace for 83 hits, 15 doubles, eight triples, eight homers, 136 total bases, 45 RBI, four steals and 72 runs scored. Exaggerated figures certainly, but totals, if achieved, that would aline on-base with both Bertam’s and Kosola’s box scores from last year.

“We knew coming in that she was a very good hitter and wanted to put her in a place in the lineup where we thought she could help us the most,” Woods said. “We thought we’d put her at lead-off – you can see with her batting average, she’s going to get on base – and if we can someone on base like that, we have Briauna (Taylor), Miranda (Cleary) and Tanya (Calkins) coming up after to hopefully drive her in.”

A principle the Lakers swung into practice in a game against Upper Iowa University Feb. 23, again at the Lewis Dome. Lenza reached base and was driven in on a two-run shot by senior shortstop and two-hole hitter Briauna Taylor, the 23rd homer of her career, fifth most in GVSU history.

The Lakers lost again, this time 4-2, but showed glimpses of the offensive team they can become batting behind Lenza.

“Jenna’s actually filling the lead-off role pretty well,” Taylor said. “We’ve been able to count on her so far to get on when we need her to, and when she does, our hitting is so contagious.”

Taylor in 52 at-bats this season ranks third on the roster in doubles (2), tied for second in triples (1), second in all three triple-slash categories; batting average (.442), on-base percentage (.464) and slugging percentage (.865), and has a team-high six yard balls, 45 total bases, 29 RBI and three steals on three attempts.

Yet as potent as the 1-2 punch of Lenza and Taylor has been at the top of the Laker lineup – both rate in the top four of virtually all offensive categories, including walks and sacrifice flies – might be even more integral to GVSU’s success.

Through 15 games, the duo has combined for 60 put-outs, 42 assists, three double plays and just four errors, numbers that favorably compare and project in both production and efficiency to the Bertram-Taylor double-play pairing of past seasons.

“I think Bri and I are both good athletes, quick on the turn, and have worked a lot together on different things, especially double plays,” Lenza said. “In our first game, we had a little bit of a mix up that cost us the game, but we’re working on becoming more comfortable with each other while understanding how we each like to handle certain situations.

“It takes time, but we’re going to get it.”

Or maybe not much time at all. Plenty has been asked from Lenza, and to this point, she hasn’t blinked.

Not stepping into the batter’s box straight from high school in Kosola’s absence to face collegiate pitchers.

“I haven’t led off most of my career, and coming in to replace Nellie, who did such an amazing job, I understand it’s a big role to fill,” Lenza said. “I’m trying my best to be the best lead-off hitter I can be for this team.

“I’m just trying to get myself on base to help the team get off to the best start that it can. It can be anything, – a single, double, triple – but as long as I can get on, I know the people behind me are going to move me and bring me in.”

Not when she, the only freshman regular for GVSU so far this season, stepped into an infield comprised of three other seniors – Taylor, Clearly at third and Calkins at first.

“She has excellent skills as a second baseman,” Woods said. “If you watch her throw, she has the infielder quick release – she doesn’t come up over the top – she’s quick on the turn when she gets it from Bri, stays down on ground balls and in softball, reacts and covers first on bunts, fields well and she’s very good at hanging in there and picking the ball out of the dirt, too, if it’s thrown to her.

“I saw her play a lot against real good competition in the summer and she did what’s she’s doing now the entire time. Jenna is a great athlete that’s gotten off to a great start for us I’m pretty confident to continue to do what she’s doing throughout our season.”

Not when she was paired with Taylor to assume not one, but two primary and essential roles for a Laker team with national championship aspirations, primed to win now. It took Trammel and Whitaker 19 seasons to build chemistry as ‘the longest running double-play in baseball’. Taylor and Lenza have been challenged to do the job in one.

No. 4 GVSU (11-4) will play next in a double-header beginning Sunday at 1 p.m. at Kentucky Wesleyan (6-10).

“I knew she was good coming in, and she played well in the fall, but Jenna’s doing a great job; it’s kind of like she’s a veteran out there,” Taylor said. “Coming in and being the only freshman in a senior infield has to be stressful, but she fits right in. She’s perfectly suited to fill the position, there’s been no surprises, our chemistry has been good and it’s been an easy transition; right now it feels like she and I have been playing together for years.

“It’s almost like she was able to simply surpass all the freshman nerves to step in right away, like she’s been playing on this team for years, and on the field, she’s not a freshman. She’s going to be a great player for GVSU for the next four years.”

To read the original post “Freshman electrifies GVSU in leadoff spot”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

March 12, 2014 at 9:45 pm