Ferris State Takes Aim At Wide-Open League Tournament

By Sandy Gholston

BIG RAPIDS – In a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Softball Tournament that appears up for grabs, considering at least five teams are confident about their chances, Ferris State University enters with optimism and hunger.

Friday, the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Softball Championship Tournament begins at Emerson Park in Midland. The No. 2-seeded Bulldogs’ first-round foe is Mercyhurst, the No. 7 seed in the event. The first pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. (EDT) in that contest. In other first-round competition, top-seeded Wayne State, the 22nd-ranked team in the nation, faces No. 8 Gannon, at noon; No. 4 seed Ashland goes up against No. 5 Grand Valley State, at noon; and No. 3 Saginaw Valley State faces archrival Northwood, the No. 6 seed, at 10 a.m.

Are there any favorites in this tournament field?

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The Bulldogs are focused on performing at their best as postseason play gets underway this Friday (May 2) with the start of the 2008 GLIAC Softball Championship Tournament.
Yes, there are at least four to five teams talented enough and confident enough to believe they can walk away with the league championship and a bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.

“The thing about this tournament is we know it’s going to be a wide-open one,” Ferris head coach Keri Becker said as her team ended the regular season with a 27-14 record overall as the Bulldogs tied for first-place in the GLIAC at 16-4 with Wayne State. “When you’re coming into a tournament like this you know it’s going to be an event where anybody can win and there is not going to really be an upset.”

Ferris hopes to continue its red-hot hitting led by junior first baseman Amanda Jager, who is the fourth-leading hitter in the league batting .378. Jager is leading the GLIAC in slugging percentage at .658, walks with 21 and on-base percentage at .496. Also batting above the .300 level this spring, for Ferris, are Rhea Flores (.375), a pitcher; Amanda Harrington (.359), who starts regularly at second base; Sarah Mueller (.339), a pitcher and utility player; Katie Kraai (.311), the Bulldogs’ starting third baseman; and Brooke Lewis (.300), who has had limited at bats, but has been effective at times when she has had her chances.

Defensively, it starts with the pitching. Ferris has relied heavily on the dependable combination of Mueller and Holly Bruntjens to handle the duties in the circle throughout the season. Mueller boasts a record of 13-5 this spring with a 1.60 earned run average to complement 52 strikeouts. Bruntjens owns a 10-7 record with a 2.32 ERA and has fanned 56 batters.

Beginning Friday, Ferris faces its first big exam. This weekend will be a test to see if the Bulldogs can be consistent with hitting and put together the total package it will take to get hot during the course of the three-day tournament to win the league’s championship. To make that happen, however, Ferris will need to smooth out its roller-coaster ride for a smoother and more consistent journey toward what it hopes is a tournament championship and the GLIAC’s bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.

If you have any questions, ideas or comments feel free to contact Sandy Gholston at sgholston2@netzero.com

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