By Mike Staley – Collegiate Staff
The Grand Rapids Community College softball team lost 9-5 to the Grand Valley State University Lakers Thursday night at Belknap Park in Grand Rapids.
Paige Mortenson got the start on the mound for the Raiders and had a tough start to her night. She gave up three earned runs in the top of the first and the Raiders found themselves with a 3-0 deficit before they had their first at bat.
In the home half of the first, the Raiders threatened to get those runs back as they loaded the bases. With two outs, right fielder Kate Lorang battled with the bases loaded and continued to foul off pitch after pitch. On the 10th pitch of the at bat, Lorang struck out and left three runners stranded.
The score stayed at 3-0 until the fourth inning when the Lakers added another three, making the score 6-0. Going into the fifth inning, Head Coach Brian Skudre decided to make a pitching change and called on Casey Evans to relieve Mortenson.
“They seemed to start timing up (Mortenson’s) pitches and started hitting her a little bit harder,” Skudre said. “That was something we talked about before the game that if that started to happen we were going to bring (Evans) in.”
Evans came in and settled things down for the Raiders giving up only one earned run on just two hits. The change also seemed to spark life into the Raider bats.
“I think (the team) believed in me which gave me a lot more confidence,” Evans said. “When they started making plays behind me, it obviously gave me more confidence.”
In the bottom of the sixth, the Raiders trailed 9-0 and were on the verge of being run-ruled. They needed at least two runs to continue the game. With two outs and a runner on second, Josie Manion tripled to deep center field bringing in one run and scoring herself on a throwing error from the Lakers center fielder.
With those two runs on the board, the game continued to the seventh inning. After a quick 1-2-3 top half of the seventh, the Raiders came back to the plate with hot bats and momentum on their side.
The Lakers got sloppy defensively late in the game and had three errors in the seventh leading to three more Raider runs. The highlight of the inning was Evans’ two RBI single up the middle.
“I think we just gained a little bit more confidence,” Evans said. “I think we realized that we could hit them and that they weren’t as big and bad as we thought they were.”
Down 9-5 with two outs and two on in the bottom of the seventh, Mortenson looked to continue the rally. She grounded the ball hard back up the middle but was robbed by the Lakers pitcher who stabbed it off the ground and threw her out at first to end the game.
“We picked up the energy there towards the end of the game,” Skudre said. “We really battled and didn’t quit. The captains kind of took it upon themselves to keep making sure everybody was pumped up and get the bats going and once that started happening, it became super contagious.”
The Raiders finished with 5 runs on 7 hits and committed 4 errors while the Lakers had 9 runs on 9 hits and committed 7 errors. Mortenson picked up the loss bringing her season record to 2-5. The Raiders fall to 2-3 in conference play and 3-10 overall.
The Raiders want to try to bottle up the momentum from their last two innings and carry that into their next game.
“I think we’re going to take these bats, and we’re going to bring them with us,” Evans said.
The Raiders will try to keep those bats going when they travel to take on the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Cougars in Texas Township, Michigan at 3 p.m. on Sat, March 31.