GLIAC Preview: Grand Valley Reloads In Championship Pursuit
Only two runs separated Grand Valley State from promotion to Denver and the 2022 Div. II Women’s College World Series. The Lakers start 2023 nationally at No. 10 but return with a corps that has the potential to finish at No. 1.
GVSU is making headlines on the GLIAC softball landscape ahead of a new campaign, seeking its incredible sixth straight conference championship. The Lakers have been nearly untouchable in league play since 2017, with each of their five consecutive GLIAC crowns separating two or more games.
Last year, Grand Valley defeated fellow NCAA tournament team Saginaw Valley by 6.5 games.
With nine key players returning from a lineup that was promoted to Super Regional a year ago, GVSU is not only the clear favorite in GLIAC: this is a team with a viable frame for the national championship.
In 2022, All-Americans Hannah Beatus and Lydia Goble lead the Lakers again. Goble hit .465 last season with a 1.214 OPS, .706 slugging percentage, six homers and 52 RBI.
Goble was also one of GVSU’s most dangerous baserunners with 12 steals from 12 attempts. Joanna Cirrincione was also electrifying on the base paths with 16 steals on 19 tries and proved just as adept at getting on board as Goble. Cirrincione is back after 2022 with a .409 batting average, 1.018 OPS and 46 RBI.
Kaitlin Lynch makes it 3-for-3 on Grand Valley, welcoming back .400-plus batters. Lynch hit .405 last season and boasted a .446 on-base percentage. Expect Kelsey Komorous, GLIAC Freshman of the Year and last season’s first baseman, to build on a debut campaign in which she hit .323 and drove in 42 hitting with some of the best clubs in D-II.
With all the offensive firepower on the Lakers roster, Beatus would have plenty of running support to create a margin for error — if she needed it. However, the reigning GLIAC Pitcher of the Year was one of the country’s best players among the entire Div. II and amassed a .97 ERA in nearly 173 working innings with 181 strikeouts. Fellow starter Genesis Eggart was dominant herself, compiling a 2.36 ERA, hitting out 97 and capping opposing batsmen to a .178 average.
Saginaw Valley can make another postseason run
Grand Valley may be the standard-bearer for GLIAC heading into 2023, but Saginaw Valley is recovering with plenty of reason for optimism this season.
The Cardinals reached the 2022 NCAA tournament and racked up a string of victories before falling to the same Southern Indiana that rebounded GVSU en route to Denver. Returning from last year’s SVSU lineup, which finished second in the GLIAC and went 36-20 overall, are Sarah Gersch, Jackie Popko and Sara Moos, three of the leaders of the 2022 squad in overall hits with 54, 45 and 46.
Popok and Moss were both 1st Team All-GLIAC honorees, along with pitcher Emily Depew. Depew will be the Saginaw Valley ace again after a season with a 2.01 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 143 innings.
What’s next for Davenport without Rachel Griffin?
First baseman Rachel Griffin became the first Davenport representative to be named GLIAC Player of the Year after batting with seven home runs and a .370 slugging percentage. Replacing someone who accomplishes the unprecedented may not be realistic, but the Panthers are bringing back other playmakers who are able to soften the blow of Griffin’s absence.
Gabby Palazzolo had a .329 a season ago and was Davenport’s top baserunner with 11 steals from 12 attempts. Monica Meger showed pop with three homers, and Riley Hasseld was one of four Panthers batters to bat better than .315s in more than 100 at-bats.
Davenport also received multiple home runs from Brooke Cowan, Emma Embry and Emma Miller in limited at-bats.
Purdue Northwest could be a dark horse to keep an eye on
Three All-GLIAC selections in 2022 are the pillars for Purdue Northwest in 2023. Selena Michko, a 1st Team All-GLIAC designated hitter, hit 14 homers a season ago to lead the conference.
Third baseman Madison Schultz, who was also 1st Team All-GLIAC, returns after hitting six round trips. The duo combine to pack one of the strong punches seen in every batting order the league has to offer.
Outfielder Aubrey Shroyer hit .343 en route to the 2nd Team All-GLIAC and put together a stretch in nine games late in the season where he hit 17-of-31. That consistency, coupled with the power of the Lions, could make Purdue Northwest one of the most impressive offenses in GLIAC.