LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Fourth-ranked Grand Valley State finished up its three-game series to open the 2012 season on Tuesday, dropping a 5-3 decision to Bellarmine. The loss snapped a 23-game winning streak for Grand Valley State in true away games that dated back to April 21, 2010 when the Lakers lost a 7-6 game at Tiffin.
GVSU started the game once again with some small ball, scoring a run without garnering a hit for the second time in three games. In the top of the second inning, redshirt freshman Kevin Zak was hit by a pitch and then stole second base, his third swipe of the season. After a walk to freshman Jamie Potts, an errant throw by the pitcher on a pickoff allowed both runners to move up two bases, scoring Zak to give the Lakers an early one-run advantage.
Junior Anthony Campanella, making his Laker debut, cruised through the first inning but met trouble in the second. After striking out the lead-off hitter in the frame, Campanella issued a walk and then hit the next man up before surrendering a three-run homer to give Bellarmine a 3-1 lead.
The Lakers had a couple chances to respond in the top of the third, but were caught stealing twice in the frame.
GVSU led off the fourth inning with a double from senior Derrik Strzalkowski, but two consecutive groundouts only got him to third base before the Knights got out of trouble.
Finally, in the top of the fifth, the Lakers were able to get the offense rolling. Senior Zach Laupp singled to right-center field and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. After freshman Mike Nadratowski walked, junior Stephen Claypool hit a line drive over the centerfielder’s head that wound up in a triple, scoring both runners to kknot the game at three. After senior Steve Anderson was intentionally walked, he stole second to give the Lakers two runners in scoring position with only one out. Bellarmine escaped trouble again, however, getting a strikeout and flyout to end the threat.
The Knights used some small-ball of their own in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead back. Sophomore Cody Westerhuis came to the mound in relief, but hit the first batter he faced. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second and a groundout put the runner on third, a walk was issued to put runners at the corners with two out. After a pitching change to senior Jacob Cox, Bellarmine successfully stole home to bring across the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run to go up 4-3.
The Lakers had another chance in the top of the eighth as Zak was hit by a pitch and then stole his second base of the game with one out. However, he was thrown out at third base trying to advance on a groundball. The Knights almost rode the momentum to a big inning in the eighth, putting the lead-off hitter on with a bunt single. After a second consecutive bunt single put two runners on, the runners both moved up with a wild pitch and one run was brought in on an RBI single to go up 5-3. The second runner was thrown out by junior Chris Rudenga from right field. After another single put runners on the corners, a fielder’s choice resulted in the second runner of the inning being cut down at home and the Lakers escaped the frame with a pop-up to shallow left field.
GVSU’s last chance to tie got off to a good start as pinch-hitter Chris Ripple singled through the left side and was pinch-ran for. After a flyout to left field, the Lakers ran in to some bad luck, getting retired on a 4-6-3 double play to end the game.
Westerhuis (0-1) took the loss in relief without surrendering a hit, going 0.2 innings with one walk. The starter, Campanella, yielded only two hits in five innings of work but the three-run homer is what did him in as he struck out four in his work. Senior Cory Rademacher worked two innings of relief, allowing four hits while striking out three.
Laupp finished the game 2-for-2 with a run scored and a walk. Strzalkowski and Nadratowski each went 1-for-4 while Claypool finished 1-for-4 with two RBI. Zak was 0-for-2 with a run scored but was hit by a pitch twice and stole two bases, giving him four thefts on the season.
The Lakers, now 2-1 on the year, will prepare for their annual Florida spring break trip. The first game of the trip is scheduled for Sunday (Mar. 4) at 3 p.m. against West Virginia Wesleyan at Chain of Lakes Park #1 in Winter Haven, Fla.