GRAND VALLEY STATE LAKERS (39-18)
The Lakers had another impressive season last year that once again had them in the company of the top teams at season’s end in Cary. While GVSU didn’t have some of the gaudy winning streaks or players with video game numbers in the past, they did have something just as important, which was a solid team of savvy, talented players who could lean on each other for a win. Head Coach Jamie Detillion didn’t miss a beat in his first year taking over for the Lakers and his sophomore season could be just as impressive. The roster returns a commanding presence on offense and if some arms develop the Lakers will be considered a threat to compete for the title once again.
The Lakers will be without closer Brad Zambron who finished his college career as the NCAA DII career saves record holder. His absence leaves a big void both in the bullpen as well as in the dugout. One player who will be back on the mound is sophomore Patrick Kelley who was second on the team with eight wins and struck out 39 batters while only allowing nine walks. Kelley, along with senior Sean Clancy, gives the team a pair of experienced starters. Clancy was effective in ten appearances last year but didn’t display the statline to show he’s ready to be an ace. Cody Westerhuis fanned 16 batters in 13.2 innings last season and could be an invaluable member of the rotation or bullpen . The coaches expect big numbers from Grand Rapids Community College transfer Aaron Jensen. The 6’8” behemoth reaches the 90’s with his pitches and it was a bit of a surprise when he became available to GVSU as it believed he may be drafted. Evan Nietfeldt, a transfer from South Suburban College, could also be a difference maker. He had a 2.60 ERA pitching for the Bulldogs and should be a part of the Lakers’ rotation.
The good news is that if the offense is needed to produce runs in bunches for GVSU to win, it can. Giancarlo Brugnoni has hit 28 homeruns the past two seasons for the Lakers and is a threat to take the ball deep every time he steps to the plate. The Lakers leading hitter, second baseman Kevin Zak, hit .377 as a freshman in 2012 and bumped his average to .387 last season. The junior doesn’t have a lot of pop in his bat, but he gets around the bases and led the team in hits and runs. Cut from the same cloth as Zak is Jamie Potts who was second on the team with a .379 average. Both Zak and Potts added double-digit stolen bases and struck out only a combined 36 times in nearly 400 at bats. Mike Nadratowski, the 2012 GLIAC Freshman of the Year, is another returning tough-out. The speedy centerfielder started every game for GVSU last season.