Comeback still in progress
After opening loss, GVSU one win away from title game
CARY, N.C. -- One more loss and that’s it, the season’s over.
After falling short to Minnesota State University, Mankato on the opening day of the NCAA Division II tournament, it’s a reality that had faced Grand Valley State’s baseball team throughout the rest of the tournament. That defeat was nearly a week ago, however, and the Lakers haven’t lost since.
Three wins in four days –- against Shippensburg on Monday, Franklin Pierce on Wednesday and Tampa on Thursday – have put the Lakers right back in contention. If they’re to get past Tampa again on Friday, they’ll again go up against Minnesota State, Mankato.
And this time, it would be for all the marbles – a national championship.
“This was a very big game for us,” said head coach Jamie Detillion after the win against powerhouse Tampa, which had been ranked first in the country going into the contest. “We had our backs to the wall. Tampa’s an outstanding team. They’re a very, very good team.
“I think coming into [Friday], I would say that we were quite the underdog. But great players save the best performances for when the team needs it most. We hear that from our administration all the time.”
The threat of elimination has been there ever since the last out was recorded in the loss to the Mavericks of Minnesota State, Mankato. As a result, there is no yesterday. There is only today’s game, and maybe, just maybe, the chance to play tomorrow.
“I don’t think it’s pressure to us,” said Detillion after an 8-4 win against Shippensburg in which every single player in the starting lineup got at least one hit. “We’re just looking to have fun and looking for another opportunity. I told this team before the game, ‘Let’s just play for tomorrow. Let’s keep playing for one more day.’”
Pitcher Anthony Campanella scattered 10 hits across eight innings against Shippensburg. Although there were runners on base in virtually every inning, Campanella pitched himself right out of the jams in each and every instance.
“I think if you look at my record after a loss, I haven’t lost a game but after a win, I’m probably at .500,” Campanella said with a smile Tuesday. “I kind of enjoy having the ball in my hand when it matters and carrying that effort on my shoulders, being a captain on the team and a senior leader.
“And also, I don’t think there’s an actual burden. Basically every year we come here, and we wanted to prove we belong here this time. All the guys on the team are friends, and we just want to keep this thing going as long as we can.”
They’ve certainly done that, and they’ve done it in a big way. Starting pitcher Kyle Teague went the distance against Tampa Thursday, allowing just five hits. Not a single Spartan runner got past second base.
Against a power like Tampa, Teague was a bulldog.
“Nobody stepped up more today than Kyle Teague,” Detillion said in Thursday’s post-game press conference. “That’s one of the best performances I’ve seen on this stage. He was outstanding in our regional, and we rode his back today. We had a few key plays offensively that led to some runs, but I think the story of the game was about how Kyle Teague dominated Tampa.”
Teague had also pitched nine innings against Minnesota State, Mankato on Saturday, giving up the same number of hits before getting tagged with the 2-0 loss. This time, the same kind of determined effort meant racking up a crucial victory.
“I felt really good [Thursday],” Teague said. “I felt good against Mankato, and I think I was just a little bit stronger [Thursday]. My changeup was working, and I think that was really the key pitch. I was getting a strikeout when I needed to, so it was just a good mix for the team.”
The Lakers stand just one game removed from a shot at a national championship, but they’ll have to get past Tampa to do it. Then again, they’ve already beaten the Spartans once, so why not again?
“We just look at every game as another opportunity, just another opportunity go out and perform, have fun and play well,” concluded Detillion, echoing his comments from after the Shippensburg win. “These guys are having the time of their lives.
“They’re in the highest level, the highest stage they could possibly be on. They’re just enjoying themselves. I don’t think we feel pressure. We just look at it as another opportunity to go out, have some fun and do what they love to do.”